Plans for a controversial housing development south east of Melrose, at the foot of the Eildon Hills, are being recommended for approval.
Rural Renaissance, the contracting arm of Melrose-based property developer JS Crawford, is hoping to be allowed to build 28 homes at the Croft, off Dingleton Road.
Some of the new properties proposed for the 2.5-hectare site, currently grazing land, would tower 15m above Dingleton Road, and that is one of the reasons the plans have sparked 131 objections and other representations.
The firm has been in talks with Scottish Borders Council planners and the public since the proposals were first unveiled in October 2018.
Since then, the plans have undergone numerous revisions, and now they finally look set to get the go-ahead from the council as officers are recommending that they be approved approved at a meeting of the local authority’s planning and building standards committee next Monday, July 1.
In a report to councillors, principal planning officer Craig Miller writes: “The most challenging part of the development site is undoubtedly the section behind the Croft building which is proposed for a loop road and plots 13 to 18.
“There has been considerable concern and objection to the prominence and visual impacts of this section of the development, and this is fully understood.
“There were strong concerns expressed to the applicant about the height and bulk of the, effectively, three-storey houses behind the Croft and the impacts from Dingleton Road.
“More than any other part of the development, this element has been of greatest concern to the department.
“Whilst objectors have commented that ridge heights could be up to 15m above the level of Dingleton Road as a result of the revised proposals, there are a series of mitigating factors that result in the acceptance of the amended proposals.
“The planning brief requests a loop road around the back of the Croft and, in terms of efficiency of land development and site viability, it must be accepted that houses need to be accessed from this loop road and would be on the uphill side of that road.”
The latest proposals are for 28 homes, seven of them to be designated as affordable housing.
That’s down almost a third on the 46 houses first suggested and less than half the 80 proposed in an outline application put forward in 2006 but subsequently withdrawn.
The homes proposed are all two-storey but some feature attic rooms.
The plans are being opposed by the Don’t Build on the Eildons campaign group, citing concerns over traffic, impact on the landscape and increased pressure on local schools and services.
Group member Greg Simpson said: “Many in the community are horrified by the developer’s plans.
“You can tell from the officers’ report that they have recommended approval through gritted teeth.
“They still have great concerns over the huge houses that will tower over Dingleton Road and be an ugly blot on the Eildons, but their hands are tied by a poor planning brief drafted over a decade ago.
“This gives the planning committee a really difficult decision – do they wave through a deficient design based on a substandard brief and scar the Eildons forever, or will they take the opportunity of the new local plan to pause and think again?
“With such a controversial site in such a sensitive area, with such local opposition, you would hope they will err on the side of caution.”
A spokesperson for Crawford’s highlighted the economic benefits of allowing the proposals to proceed, saying: “The proposed new homes at the Croft are an exciting project for the local community.
“Our design team have been working with officials from Scottish Borders Council to ensure proposals are fully compliant.
“Research has found that the development of 28 new homes, including seven affordable houses, will bring in an additional £760,000 of residential spend on local shops and services, a £1.1m spend on suppliers and the creation of approximately 120 jobs.
“Furthermore, the Croft will ensure that pressure on the housing land supply is reduced and the provision of choice across the housing market area is increased through the design, quality and density of development that can be achieved.
“These factors, in the unpredictable market shaped by ongoing Brexit discussions, are vital in safeguarding the economic stability of the Scottish Borders and quality of life for the community.”