Controversial housing plans thwarted by Scottish Government

Tweedbridge Court in Peebles.
Tweedbridge Court in Peebles.

The Scottish Government has thrown out plans to two three-and-a-half storey tower blocks on the banks of the River Tweed.

Selkirk-based Eildon Housing Association originally unveiled plans for Tweedbridge Court, Peebles, in August 2018, but these were met with a wave of rejections from local residents who voiced concerns over the size of the development, which stood a full four storeys above the banks of the river.

Following a public outcry, the housing association’s agent, Edinburgh-based Camerons Architects, were forced to submit new plans that reduced the building to three-and-a-half storeys and took 70cm off the overall height of the two proposed buildings.

However, residents remained opposed to the plans, with Scottish Borders Council receiving 186 objections to the development.

At a packed meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee on Monday, February 4, council planning officers recommended approving the application. 

Following representations from Conservative council leader Shona Haslam and SNP leader of the opposition Stuart Bell, both who represent Tweeddale East, councillors voted to reject the proposals by six to three, citing concerns over the height of the buildings and their prominence along the banks of the Tweed. 

Subsequently, Eildon Housing Association appealed to the Scottish Government’s planning and environmental appeals division (DPEA).

The housing association’s planning consultants, Edinburgh-based Farningham Planning, said in their appeal statement: “The appeal proposal represents a significant development within Peebles in a sensitive, prominent location on the edge of the conservation area. 

“The physical land use principle of housing on the site is established through the site’s previous residential use and its specific allocation in the adopted local development plan for an indicative 50 housing units.

“There are no technical or environmental objections to the proposal.

“Following an amended approach from the original submission, the revised design as currently proposed, presents a more traditional form of development which has reduced the mass and visual scale of the proposals and, as a consequence, secured the support of the planning officer and the council’s heritage and design team.

“The proposal, if implemented, will provide much needed affordable housing in Peebles where there is a recognised acute shortfall of such accommodation. 

“This is a significant material consideration in the planning balance.”

However, the DPEA’s reporter Christoper Warren, acting on behalf of Scottish Ministers, rejected the appeal despite acknowledging the need for affordable housing: “The proposed development would make an important contribution to the affordable housing provision in Peebles. 

“It is on a brownfield site which is allocated for residential development in the adopted local development plan, and so the proposal is consistent with policy.

“The site is also highly accessible, and overall I find it very well suited for providing affordable homes, despite the sensitive nature of the site. 

“In my view, the favourable aspects of this proposal are considerable. However, this must be balanced against the undesirable aspects of the development.

“In light of my findings in regard to the incompatibility of the design and scale of the building for its context, I consider the development would have a detracting influence upon the distinctive character and appearance of the riverside area of the town, and it would appear incongruous in this location. 

“The development’s appearance would fail to preserve or enhance the Peebles conservation area, to which the site is adjacent. 

“I also find the development would have an unacceptable impact upon residential amenity at 30 Dukehaugh. 

“I find the proposal to be contrary to planning policy for these reasons.”

A previous building on the site was formerly owned and operated by Edinburgh-based social landlord Margaret Blackwood Housing Association, but after falling into disrepair the site was acquired by Eildon Housing Association who demolished the old building.