Abbotsford trustees objecting to plans to allow housing nearby

Netherbarns, next to Abbotsford.
Netherbarns, next to Abbotsford.

The trustees of historic Abbotsford House near Tweedbank are keeping up their opposition to plans to allow housing on a nearby estate. 

Scottish Borders Council officers are currently putting together a new local development plan indicating which parts of the region are considered suitable to host future housing developments. 

Abbotsford, near Tweedbank.

Abbotsford, near Tweedbank.

However, as part of an evidence-gathering exercise, the council has included Netherbarns, a 20-acre estate to the west of Abbotsford, as a potential housing site despite the fact it was removed from the council’s first local development plan during consultation in 2015 due to concerns regarding the impact on the setting of the mansion. 

Abbotsford was built by novelist Walter Scott after he acquired the land in 1811 and completed in 1824.

Its grounds remained in the hands of the Scott family until 2007, after which ownership passed to a board of trustees following the death of Jean Maxwell-Scott. 

Abbotsford Trust chairman James Holloway writes in his submission to the council that development of the Netherbarns site would ruin the picturesque views from the mansion, saying: “The Abbotsford Trust objects to the development of the Netherbarns site because the associated light, sound, and visual intrusions will impact adversely on its heritage assets, historic setting and the cultural landscape of Walter Scott and the Scottish Borders. 

“The trust strongly opposes the assumption that screening by trees will reduce the impact of the Netherbarns site. 

“It believes that an adequate level of tree screening, one that protects the setting of Abbotsford from any new development, is unachievable on this site.”

This is not the first time custodians of the mansion have objected to plans to build housing nearby.

In 2005, Kelso-based developer M&J Ballantyne attempted to build a 83-home estate on the north bank of the Tweed but was thwarted following objections from Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland. 

And in 2015, the Netherbarns site was taken out of the council’s last local development plan after the Abbotsford Trust objected to Scottish Government reporters. 

M&J Ballantyne still owns the site and, via London-based planning consultant Lichfields, has submitted its own response to the council.

It reads: “The site is not located within a conservation area and does not include any heritage assets. 

“However, it is located within the setting of a number of heritage assets, including the category-A listed Abbotsford House and the designated garden and designed landscape of Abbotsford. 

“A landscape and visual appraisal, prepared by Broxburn-based environmental consultant Brindley Associates, demonstrates that development delivered within the limits set by the landscape and development framework would be visible from Abbotsford during winter, and for the first few years, but that with a sensitive palette of materials and established landscaping, the development could become well integrated into the landscape.

“The development will also not be visible during the summer.”

Responses to the evidence-gathering exercise were collated into a main issues report put before councillors on Wednesday, June 26, and they will now be used to form the basis of a proposed new local development plan.

That proposed plan is expected by the end of the year, and any unresolved conflicts between interested parties will go before Scottish Government reporters in Summer 2020, with the formal adoption of the second local development plan set for spring 2021.