Objectors given new hope in Minto planning row

Villagers opposed to proposals for two new homes at Minto, near Denholm, have been given fresh hope of halting that development despite planning permission having already been granted.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 6:02 pm
How the two houses now approved near West Lodge in Minto will look.

Almost half of Minto’s residents spoke out against plans to build three new homes on land south west of West Lodge originally submitted by Stirling University academic Sally Haw last spring.

That show of opposition wasn’t enough to stop Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committe giving a scaled-down version of the development the green light in November, however.

Now, though, Denholm Community Council believes there are grounds for that decision to be overturned after it emerged that there is a planning restriction in place stipulating that only one house can be built on the plot in question.

“It turns out there was a section 50 order attached to the land in 1993 that restricted development on that land to no more than one property,” community councillor and objector Simon Clew, of West Lodge, told last week’s meeting of the council.

“That information was not made available to anybody until now, when the developer has raised it, asking for the restriction to be lifted.

“Scottish Borders Council knew about this order and had this information, so why it was not made available to the committee, I do not know.

“It seems to me that the whole application should be ripped up and started again.

“The whole reason the condition was put in place was to stop what is happening now. It cannot just be set aside.

“The developer brought it up by asking for it to be set aside. They cannot buy the land until it is set aside. He has to bring it up or he is in danger of it being brought up and affecting the build later on.”

However, David Anderson, director of Borders Low Carbon Developments, the East Lothian firm now applying to have the restriction lifted, is hoping for just that as he believes the section 50 order has been superseded.

In a letter to planners, he says: “I am looking to complete purchase of the site as soon as possible and commence construction of the approved houses.

“The section 50 planning agreement is no longer relevant since the land was included within the village settlement boundary and the planning consent for two houses granted.”

Mr Clew shared his findings with community council colleagues last Wednesday.

Chairwoman Gwen Crew said: “I think, as a community council, we should be agreeing with your sentiments that further investigation should be made.

“The decision should be null and void and the application started again.

“There were so many objections to that development that it would have been detrimental to their cause had it been brought up at the time.

“There’s only one way, in my opinion, that this can be dealt with.”

Ms Haw initially put in a bid to build three identical one-and-a-half-storey houses on land near the southern boundary of the village last May, but she scaled that proposed development down to two houses in November.

That compromise by Ms Haw, a professor of public and population health, failed to appease the 20-odd objectors who registered protests with the council’s planning department, but it was enough to satisfy councillors.

Now, though, Mr Clew hopes that decision can be overturned in light of the one-property restriction being revealed.

“Why was this document not produced before now?” he asked. “I do think it was a cock-up rather than a deliberate attempt to mislead.

“It could be that they would have chosen to remove the condition and approve it anyway, but it should not be done after the fact.

“The council may have made a very different decision had this information been available to them.

At the advice of Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall, the community council will raise the issue with the regional council’s legal and planning chiefs.

Three new objections to the latest application have already been lodged with planners.