A Borders couple have taken their bid to have a former bed-and-breakfast redesignated as a family home to the Scottish Government to adjudicate on.
Tom and Sarah Watters, owners of the old Glenacre guesthouse off the A68 at Camptown, near Jedburgh, applied to Scottish Borders Council for a certificate of lawful use earlier this year as they claim the property has been used solely as a family home for the last four years.
However, council planners turned down that request as they say there is evidence the property has been used as a guesthouse since 2014.
Now, Mr and Mrs Watters are appealing to the Scottish Government’s department of planning and environmental appeals to overrule the council’s rejection.
An appeal statement, lodged by Peebles-based planning consultant Ericht, reads: “There has been no use as a guesthouse since the end of December 2013 and there has been no enforcement action taken by Scottish Borders Council in the period.
“The use of the property known as Glenacre as a dwelling house is lawful.
“No enforcement action may be taken in respect of the failure to comply because the four-year time period for enforcement action to be taken has expired.”
One of the council’s main points of contention is that the Watters have submitted tax returns listing Glenacres as a B&B business over the last few years, but the couple insist that was down to an administrative error.
“Despite the administrative mistake made by the accountant, there is nothing in the tax returns submitted to the council to indicate that Glenacre was being operated as a B&B during any of the period in which the planning authority asserts it to have been,” they say.
“There is no logic in the officers’ conclusion that the tax returns show an operating B&B business. They simply do not.
“An incorrect and unreasonable interpretation appears to have been made.”
Council planning officials also point out that a website promoting Glenacre as a B&B was accessible within the last four years and that signage advertising the location of the B&B was still present during a 2016 visit by officers.
The council’s statement to the Holyrood department reads: “Photos taken 956 days after the date on which the appellant claims to have ceased trading as a B&B show that the property was furnished with signage on the road and gable of the property advertising the business and its VisitScotland accreditation, together with signposting for customer parking, which would suggest that a B&B business was operating at that date.
“As a result of that signage, the officer had no reason to believe that the property was operating as anything but a B&B.
“Had the signage been left on and within the curtilage of the property for a matter of months before being taken down, that would be understandable, but for it to remain four years after the apparent cessation of the business is inconceivable.
“It would be reasonable to assume that the appellants would have removed the Glenacre property from their website in order to avoid the inconvenience of telephone calls to their home regarding a business no longer taking guests.
“The existence of the website together with the signage remaining on the property would, taken together, suggest the operation of a B&B business at Glenacre to any reasonable person.”
An appeals department reporter, acting on behalf of ministers, will now look into the case and is due to make a decision on it by the end of August.