St Boswells garage given green light to use test area as car park

A car dealership has been given the green light to use land alongside its St Boswells showroom for parking despite that bid driving one of its neighbours around the bend. 

Border Toyota at St Boswells.
Border Toyota at St Boswells.

Border Toyota has now got the thumbs-up to use part of its site off the A68 currently designated as a demonstration and training area as a car park instead.

Border Motor Group managing director Archie Maclean applied to Scottish Borders Council’s planning department in June for permission to use that area, also home to six electric vehicle-charging points, as a car park for visitors and staff, citing social distancing guidance prompted by the coronavirus pandemic as justification. 

That application sparked five objections, however, including one from Andrew Dow, an immediate neighbour of the proposed car park. 

An area of land to the rear of Border Toyota's St Boswells showroom now being used as a car park.

Appearing at a meeting of the council’s planning and building standards committee held via video-link on Monday, September 7, Mr Dow alleged that area is already used as a car park, causing noise disturbance to his property.

Mr Dow said: “The condition that he has applied to have removed is a vital safeguard for our residential amenity.

“We haven’t, however, had the protection of it as it has been ignored since the date of completion.

“We have, therefore, experienced disruption for several months.

“The car park is operated from 6am until 8pm, with a continual stream of cars, headlamps, lorries and trailers unloading.

“We’ve even had an instance of a car transporter right outside our kitchen window, with the driver staring in at my daughter eating her breakfast. 

“The original breach of the previous condition was reported to Scottish Borders Council in January, and on January 22, a 28-day notice was served. We would like to state that this was well before Covid-19.

“I have to ask, if not for Covid, what would the applicant’s solution be to this breach?”

Responding to those claims, Mr Maclean said the change of use sought was vital to secure the future of a business employing 186 people across four locations.

He told the committee: “This application is to address a long-standing operational issue for us, that being having adequate parking for staff and customers and the knock-on impact that has in relation to business operations, but, more importantly, on the health and safety of our staff and visiting members of the public.

“In short, we need more space in which to operate effectively and to meet the standard required of us by our franchise with Toyota and governing authorities. 

“You will have noted a number of our staff members have written in to that effect.

“We are delighted by the levels of support of our customers and by some local businesses. 

“We have noted the five objections and, with respect to them, would draw your attention to the fact they are from our neighbour Mr Dow, his father-in-law and three of his pals. 

“We understand Mr Dow’s position but would respectfully note that the St Boswells garage operated for many years before Mr Dow’s decision to build two houses close to it. 

“This proposal, if accepted, would allow staff to park well away from Mr Dow and the neighbours will hear less vehicle and people noise.”

In a supporting statement to the council, Mr Maclean further explained: “Social distancing dictates we must change the external layout of the site so that staff and customers are able to park their vehicles safely and adhere to the two-metre regulations.

“Staff currently park behind the service department in the service yard, where 30 to 40 cars park three deep, but guidelines on safe parking will not allow us to continue doing that.

“The staff that arrive earliest for work are then leaving first, which means that two to three cars need to be moved to allow them to get out.

“Parking tightly side by side is now not safe, and we need to provide parking which allow cars to be spaced so that we achieve social distancing, and the only part of the site we can achieve that is in the test-drive area.

“Customers will be asked to visit by appointment and will be allocated a designated parking space for their use. On every occasion that a customer brings a vehicle to us for either sales or service, before any of our staff can access the vehicle, we will require to sanitise it, and after we have worked in the vehicle, we will require to sanitise it again before the customer can go into it.

“Operationally, that means we need to have wider parking spaces so that our sanitising staff can work without another vehicle being too close to them, and the result is we require to create more customer parking as close as possible to the building.

“The additional customer parking can only be created by utilising some of the current vehicle storage spaces, so we need to replace that storage space by moving some of it into the test-drive area.”

Officers told the committee the application had received five letters of objection, and 36 letters of support and recommended that they approve the application. 

Hawick and Denholm councillor Neil Richards told the meeting: “I can’t see much wrong with this application.

“I feel sorry for the householders that are near, but that business has been there a long time. 

“Perhaps a boundary hedge might help a little, but otherwise I support this.”

East Berwickshire councillor Jim Fullarton added: “Maybe another hedge on Mr Dow’s land might give him a little more privacy and shelter from some of the noise. 

“I support this application fully. I think the owner of the garage has been very obliging, offering to park his cars away from the site, which I think is a positive. 

“I think a hedge or something to screen the property would help as we need to support this business.”

Councillors agreed to support the application but only on condition that some screening be provided.