Plans by Scottish Borders Council to transport 52,000 tonnes of household and commercial rubbish annually out of the region for treatment have been dealt a crushing blow.
The council’s own planning committee voted 5-2 on Monday to reject a bid by the local authority to create a £5.2m waste transfer station (WTS) at Easter Langlee on the outskirts of Galashiels.
The facility was a key plank in the council’s strategy to phase out dumping operations at the site ahead of the Scottish Government’s 2021 deadline for a complete ban on all biodegradable waste going to landfill.
Indeed, the council had agreed in August, 2015, that the WTS offered the optimum solution following the costly collapse earlier that year of a deal with a private company to create an advanced thermal treatment (ATT) plant at Easter Langlee.
The fact that that aborted project was granted planning consent in 2013 was cited on Monday by chief planning officer Ian Aikman, who claimed the extra traffic associated with the WTS would be less than that predicted to service the ATT.
Recommending approval of the new bid, Mr Aikman also noted that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) had withdrawn earlier objections regarding odour and noise emissions and was now satisfied with the mitigation measures proposed.
But the main issue for objectors to the WTS was the ability of the narrow C77 minor road linking Galashiels to the site to cope safely with the 88 HGV movements per day predicted by transport consultants commissioned by the council.
Although SBC’s road user manager Derek Ingles conceded these lorries would be more heavily laden than those accessing the landfill site, he concluded the increase was “fairly minimal”.
Leading the objectors was John Birnie of the Coopersknowe Residents Association, who reminded the quasi-judicial committee that when landfill began at Easter Langlee in the 1960s there were no houses in the vicinity.
“Now, apart from Copperksnowe Crescent, we have a Persimmon homes development of up to 500 houses at Melrose Gait on one side of the road and another 60 affordable homes from Eildon approved on the other,” said Mr Birnie.
“Apart from all the cars and pedestrians of all ages generated by the housing, the C77 is increasingly popular with walkers; all of which makes the road totally inadequate for what is proposed here.”
Another resident, Norman Young, told the committee: “At present, it is impossible for lorries to pass each other if they meet at the pinch point [between Melrose Gait and Coopersknowe], yet we are being asked to accept even heavier vehicles at a time when we have many more children and families living in the area and using the road.
“In addition the 30mph speed limit, which is not enforced, is exceeded every day. I cannot emphasise enough that the C77 is an accident waiting to happen.”
Committee chairman Councillor Ron Smith said that subject to conditions to improve signage and lighting on the C77, he was content to move for approval of the application.
However, Councillor Bill White, who will seek re-election in the Galashiels & District ward next Thursday, revealed he had walked up the C77 earlier this month.
“I was frankly shocked at the speed and volume of heavy traffic and I twice had to jump out of the way to avoid being run over,” he told the meeting.
“Since housing came to this area, the danger to pedestrians has intensified and I cannot in all conscience support this.”
His amendment for refusal was carried by five votes to two.
It will be for the new council to decide if Monday’s decision should be appealed or if
a new more appropriate site for the WTS should be identified.