Decision imminent on plans for holiday lodges near Bonchester Bridge

A decision is expected to be made next week on a proposed holiday let business near Bonchester Bridge.

By Joseph Anderson, local democracy reporter
Thursday, 12th September 2019, 8:12 am
How holiday lodges being planned by Claire Mactaggart at Hallrule Farm, near Bonchester Bridge, would look.
How holiday lodges being planned by Claire Mactaggart at Hallrule Farm, near Bonchester Bridge, would look.

Claire Mactaggart, of Hallrule Farm, had her initial plans to build holiday lodges on her property rejected by planning officials in April, citing concerns over the rural nature of the land and the viability of the business. 

The development would see three lodges for holiday-let use built on a remote greenfield site west of Hallrule Farm, with a new access road being created to serve them.

Her planning application has so far attracted six objections from five households, with the main issues raised being traffic movements, visual impact and effects on the environment and natural heritage.

Simon Blackwood, who lives near Bedrule, writes in his objection: “This area is one of specific natural beauty and should remain so. 

“The building designs are all inappropriate in this setting and the financial benefit to the landowner is far outweighed by the wildflowers and vegetation of the local amenity enjoyed by locals and walkers from all over the Borders and beyond. 

“Farm diversification is no reason to install holiday homes which will increase traffic substantially in an otherwise-peaceful rural environment.

“The roads in the locality are almost entirely single-track and already inadequately tended by the roads department.”

Mrs Mactaggart has appealed to Scottish Borders Council’s local review body, and it will decide the fate of the plans on Monday, September 16, following a site visit. 

An appeal document, submitted on behalf of Mrs Mactaggart by Galashiels-based Ferguson Planning, contains VisitScotland statistics on occupancy rates for upmarket accommodation. 

They show that in 2017, rooms priced at £800 or more in Scotland achieved occupancy rates of 76.66%, and five-star rooms achieved 95.05% occupancy rates.

The appeal document also cites several comparable businesses operating in Scotland and northern England achieving similar occupancy rates to show the viability of the proposed business. 

However, planning officers are still maintaining their opposition to the proposed holiday lodges. 

A report, by planning officer Stuart Herkes, reads: “The proposal does not in its siting, layout and design respect the landscape and visual amenities of the site and surrounding area and would lead to a form of development that in all of the above noted respects, would be incongruous in this isolated rural location. 

“The proposal would be liable to promote residential development on a site with respect to which no justification has been given to substantiate any operational or economic requirement. 

“It is considered that the proposal would be contrary to the local development plan and should be refused.”