Plans for new homes at old orchard in Newstead given thumbs-up despite trees facing axe

Planning consent has been granted for a housing development in Newstead, near Melrose, despite concerns being voiced over several trees having to be chopped down to make way for those homes.

By Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 10th September 2020, 12:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th September 2020, 1:36 pm
How houses proposed by Elk Construction for the former orchard off Back Road in Newstead would look.
How houses proposed by Elk Construction for the former orchard off Back Road in Newstead would look.

Elk Construction has been given the thumbs-up to build four houses on a former orchard site between the village’s Main street and Back Road.

The Galashiels-based firm had previously submitted proposals for six houses on that plot, but following negotiations with Scottish Borders Council planners, that suggested development was scaled down by a third. 

Three of the homes will be two-storey, four-bedroom properties, with the other being a three-bedroom bungalow with an integral garage.

An old orchard at Newstead being lined up as a housing site.

A new access road will be created from Back Row at the north-east corner of the site.

The application sparked two objections, prompted primarily by the fate facing the mature trees on the site. 

One objector, Iain MacLachlan, wrote: “The site plan shows plot four replacing a diverse group of mature trees. 

“These should be left standing. They provide wildlife habitat; they provide amenity to Newstead Main Street, being clearly visible over the historic stone wall immediately north of plot four; their removal would cause a loss of privacy to the houses and gardens of Townhead Way situated directly across Main Street; and they all have tree protection orders.

“The mature apple tree in the area of plot one and plot two should be preserved. It’s instantly recognisable from the Main Street upon entering the village.

“It provides great amenity to the village with distinct white blossoms in the spring and apple fruit in the autumn. 

“It would be an attractive and unique feature in the garden of one of the plots.

“Proposed developments should retain mature tree cover to preserve the site’s heritage and environmental value.”

Fellow objector Nicola Hume said: “The proposed houses would each have a reasonable garden, meaning that there is scope to retain some of the existing trees.

“We are facing a climate and biodiversity crisis and it is therefore essential that we find ways to work with nature and incorporate it into new developments rather than clearing sites entirely.”

Despite those concerns, council planning officers recommended that the Langhaugh Industrial Estate-based developer be given a conditional go-ahead to proceed.

A report to a meeting of the council’s planning and building standards committee held via video-link on Monday, September 7, reads: “The landscaping proposals include an extension of the beech hedge along the rear boundary, four apple trees at the site entrance and one within each plot. 

“It is unfortunate that the existing trees cannot be retained. However, additional replacement trees in addition to those shown on the site plan and a greater range of species would compensate somewhat for the loss of these trees. 

“A detailed scheme of landscaping should be submitted for approval and all soft landscaping works carried out during the first planting season. 

“This can be covered by suitably-worded planning conditions.”

Galashiels councillor Andy Anderson told the meeting: “I think this is a nice little development.

“A previous application was for six properties in this location, and I do think the four plots work better. 

“There’s a nice reflection of some of the other houses around there, particularly with the white render and the older house around the corner. 

“I think there’s a lot to commend about this, and I’m quite happy with this.”

Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton agreed, saying: “The four properties are quite concealed so as to not have an impact on the amenity of the area but are also in keeping with the current developments. 

“I support the officers’ recommendation on this one.”

Councillors voted unanimously to grant the application subject to a condition requiring prior approval of landscaping works and tree-planting.

Planning permission had previously been granted in 2004 and 2008 for six houses at the orchard site.