A decision on whether to allow two controversial homes to be built in Minto has been delayed to allow councillors to visit the proposed site.
Sally Haw, a professor of public and population health at Stirling University, wants to build two identical one-and-a-half storey houses at the southern entrance to the village.
Those plans have sparked widespread opposition among villagers, however, with 20 objections being sent to Scottish Borders Council’s planning department.
Appearing before the council’s planning and building standards committee today, October 7, objector Simon Clew said: “Clearly there are some strong feelings about the application for these two buildings, with about 40% of the village objecting in various ways.
“We are disappointed to see that officers are recommending this for approval.
“The local development plan requires all developments to not detract from the visual amenity of the surrounding area.
“We feel that the suburban and repetitive nature of the design is completely out of character with both the historic village and any recent developments.
“The site abuts the conservation area, so we feel the conservation area is affected by this.
“There are big concerns about the fates of the two 19th century oak trees which would be either side of both the exit and entry points of this development.
“During construction, large vehicles will need to access the site, and protecting these trees would be quite difficult.
“When the site is completed, having visibility of 42m either side of the access doesn’t seem possible, unless you can see directly through the middle of an oak tree. These are big, old oaks.”
Appearing in support of the application, Gavin Yuill, of Galashiels-based Camerons Architects, said: “In relation to the design and placemaking, the one-and-a-half storey houses proposed are the most common house type in the rural Borders and in Minto.
“The two nearest neighbouring houses are both one-and-a-half storey.
“The set-back of both proposed houses is consistent with the street and the stone, wet dash-rendered walls, timber cladding, timber windows and doors, natural slate roofs and metal gutters are all consistent with the high-quality materials used in traditional Minto village.
“The overwhelming number of retained trees, the replacement of all lost trees, and substantial new screen and hedge planting will reinforce the existing habitats and ensure that biodiversity is maximised.”
Also appearing in support of the applicant, Tim Ferguson, of Galashiels-based Ferguson Planning, told the committee: “A review of the housing analysis into the forthcoming local development plan again shows the significant benefits windfall sites of this nature can have in meeting housing delivery targets.
“The delivery of the annual housing targets are short of where they require to be and thus proposals of this nature will assist in meeting local needs.
“A significant amount of housing within the Borders is met via small developments and self-build, and indeed that has occurred elsewhere within the confines of Minto’s settlement.
“This subject site falls within the settlement boundary of Minto and is clearly in compliance with related planning policy principles.”
Councillors also heard that planning officers are recommending the application be approved, subject to conditions.
Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison said: “Much is made by the objectors that the buildings are not in keeping with Minto, yet the report from officers says that there are no two buildings the same in the village.
“To be honest, they look okay to me, but I’d need to see them in the context of what is already there.
“The houses already there don’t look hugely architecturally important to me but perhaps I’m a philistine.”
Members of the committee agreed to conduct a site visit and to reconsider the application at their next meeting, scheduled for Monday, November 4.