A bid to expand a housing development lined up for Galashiels has been rejected following opposition from local residents.
Eildon Housing Association was originally given the go-ahead to build 58 homes between the town’s Coopersknowe Crescent and the C77 road in December 2016.
However, in October 2018 the Selkirk-based housing association’s agent, Glasgow firm Collective Architecture submitted revised plans adding 11 new homes.
Those additional homes were to be created by adding extra storeys to buildings and two extra plots in Coopersknowe Crescent.
The bid to add extra homes to an already-approved planning application sparked 14 objections from neighbours of the site.
At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee on Monday, Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine highlighted those concerns, saying: “The anxiety of residents in the area has been brought to my attention after seeing the plans for the proposed development at Coopersknowe.
“One of these concerns is the C77 road, which I have walked on numerous times. Each time I have walked on that road, it has been a constant game of checking over my shoulders to ensure I would be okay.
“The fact that 69 new houses would suddenly pop up in this area over the next two years may lead to a further 138 cars on the road.
“This will impact further on road safety concerns. I believe that looking at the plans and car spaces made available, Eildon have factored in that just over 100 cars will be in this new development, so congestion and road safety concerns are going to continue if this development goes ahead.
“In the proposal, there is also plan for a playpark. This is a great idea, but it will be a play park shared by residents in adjacent builds, so that once again brings another dimension of road safety into play as children will have to access it by crossing the C77.”
However, housing association chief executive Nile Istephan told the committee that the proposal is warranted due to lack of housing in Galashiels, saying: “This proposal is here to address a very real and serious housing need.
“To provide a wee bit of context to that, we’re currently advertising for Craigpark properties in the middle of Galashiels. That closes on Tuesday and at the moment, there is an average of 116 bids for each of those properties. One person gets those out of 116.
“There is demonstration of very significant housing need in Galashiels, so we are aware this scheme has been a vacant site for a number of years and it has been a plan for housing for a period of time.
“Our proposals, we believe, provide a good bridge between the existing development at Coopersknowe Crescent and the existing development at Easter Langlee.”
Council principal planning officer Craig Miller recommended that councillors approve the application, telling them: “Subject to compliance with the proposed schedule of conditions, the development is considered acceptable when assessed against the local development plan and having accounted for the extant planning consent for the site.
“The increase in numbers has generally been handled without significant detrimental impact on the relationship of the scheme with surrounding housing schemes, particularly when compared with the current approved plans for the site.
“Ultimately, the impact of the development, when viewed within the wider context and provided suitable mitigation can be achieved by way of planting, materials, colours, and boundary treatments, is considered to be acceptable and in compliance with council policies and guidance.”
Despite that recommendation of approval, councillors voted by six votes to two to reject the planning application.
Galashiels councillor Andy Anderson told the committee: “I’m rather conflicted because we do need more affordable housing, especially in Galashiels, and it’s a site that is crying out to be developed.
“I do have concerns regarding the amount of houses here, going from 50, to 58, now up to 69.
“I have concerns over that extra volume of traffic on the C77.
“There are advantages to the road extending from Coopersknowe and avoiding the pinch point on the C77.
“My concern with adding extra houses here is that the roads can’t cater for that.
“The roundabout proposed for that area doesn’t seem to be appearing anytime in the future.”
Fellow Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison added: “The local development plan made provisions for 50 houses.
“We’ve already exceeded that by eight houses and that was agreed. From 50 to 69 is a long way from what the plan says. To me, it’s just too much.
“Nobody disagrees with development on this area. I know it very well. There is a significant number of children in the development across the road, this will add more to that.
“My concern is the large blocks. I find the height is nothing like was previously agreed.
“I would suggest that we revert to the previous application.”