A Kelso farmer has been allowed to keep a car repair garage he opened without planning permission.
Keith Redpath, of Mid Softlaw, about three miles south of Kelso, converted one of his barns into a repair garage without first acquiring planning permission for a change of use from Scottish Borders Council.
A retrospective planning application, submitted by Kelso-based RG Licence Architect in August 2018, was rejected by council planners who raised concerns over the need for a motor vehicle repair shop in such an agricultural setting.
Officers also criticised the lack of local transport links to the area, which would lead to an overuse of private cars, and the lack of parking available at the site.
However, at a meeting of the council’s local review body on Monday, June 17, councillors narrowly voted to overturn the officers’ decision and grant planning permission.
In an appeal statement placed before councillors, Mr Redpath’s agent wrote: “The farming industry is, like any other industry, subject to fluctuations and changes in demand and services. From time to time, this will result in a reduction in the need for bulk storage and of produce and large storage units not being required and left empty.
“This is inefficient, unsustainable, and results in high capital buildings being unused and requiring maintenance.
“It is therefore common business sense to find alternative uses for these buildings to achieve a return on capital and make use of a valuable resource.
“This change of use will result in one small business having the opportunity to become established and sustainable in a facility which would otherwise remain empty and in a location which affects few people.
“It is a low risk to everyone concerned and a beneficial economic solution to all parties involved.”
Galashiels councillor Andy Anderson told the meeting that he was on the fence about the application: “I must say I’m rather conflicted about this one.
“There has been no noise assessments done to see if there’s a problem. but we’ve had no representations from the neighbours to say that there is an issue.
“Regarding the issue of sustainability and public transport, this is an issue that we have right across the Borders.
“There’s lots of farm shops around Borders and if we applied that same standard to them then I suspect quite a few would go out of business.
“I’m a bit on the fence, but I’m not quite agreeing with the officers’ interpretations of development regulations.”
Kelso councillor Simon Mountford was broadly in favour of granting planning permission.
He said: “I think there are two key points here, one of which is that this is an existing operation. The business is going on, and if there was a residential nuisance then someone would have complained by now if residents were being inconvenienced.
“This is a nine-to-five operation and any noise problems can be dealt with by condition.
“Also, the emphasis of this business is on agricultural vehicles, and I’d say it’s more appropriate for agricultural vehicles to be dealt with on a farm site rather than bringing heavy machinery into Kelso.”
However, Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison voiced strong objections to the development.
He commented: “This flies in the face of the local development plan’s policy guidelines.
“It is the wrong thing in the wrong area. We are in the business of applying the rules and conditions which are currently in place.
“In my opinion I could not support this application for very strong reasons.”
Councillor Aitchison moved to refuse the application, and side with planning officers, but was outvoted by four votes to three by the committee, which overturned the officers’ initial decision and granted retrospective planning permission.