Campaigners have hit out at councillors for disregarding their opposition and approving a controversial housing development at Melrose they claim will be an eyesore.
Rural Renaissance, the contracting arm of Melrose-based property developer JS Crawford, was today, July 1, given the go-ahead to build 28 homes at the Croft, off Dingleton Road.
Some of the new properties would tower 15m above Dingleton Road, and that is among the causes of concern that triggered 131 objections and other representations.
However, members of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee overruled that opposition, instead following their officers’ recommendation to approve the development.
Speaking at the meeting on behalf of the Don’t Build on the Eildons campaign group, Melrose resident Carrie Henderson told councillors: “Bad design has been compounded by certain stipulations made in the planning brief.
“The requirement for a road to loop around the nursery, when combined with the awkward levels on the site, have resulted in plans for houses on the southern slopes being some 15m higher than the level of the road.
“Be in no doubt, this housing estate will be dominant, intrusive and jarring. It will be an eyesore.”
Philip Neaves, of Edinburgh-based Felsham Planning and Development, speaking on behalf of Rural Renaissance, disputed that, though, saying: “The Croft is a development site that was allocated in 2006.
“The reporter who allocated the site would have been well aware of the sensitivity of the site but has still allocated it.
“What we have is proposals for 21 houses for private sale and seven affordable housing units.
“The site, when viewed from Melrose, appears as part of the settlement, not the countryside, and views of the site from the Eildons are limited.
“There are significant economic benefits to the development, not just for employment during the construction phase but for nearby residents as well.”
Nearly all of the members making up the committee expressed reservations about the development, but only one, Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison, voted against the proposals.
He said: “The fact is the reporter has made a big mistake here and the land should never have been allocated for housing in the first place.
“Furthermore, I don’t like the fact we’ve got affordable housing as a token gesture. It’s not spread out in the site and there are no family homes. Do people who need affordable homes not have families?
“There are so many objections. Many are from elsewhere, and they are asking us to step in and protect this site which we, as a local authority, are charged with protecting.
“I really object to this application for a number of reasons.”
Melrose and Leaderdale councillor Tom Miers, chairman of the committee, also criticised the proposals but said they could be accepted subject to certain planning conditions.
“I have real problems with the design and concept,” he said.
“I think the houses at the back are much too high and they stick out too much.
“The middle three in particular, which will be at the back of the site, should be reduced in height.”
He suggested that the houses’ heights be reduced, by way of a planning condition, from three storey to two storey.
All councillors except Mr Aitchison were in agreement, and as he failed to find a seconder for his motion to reject the application, the proposals were granted planning permission without the need for a vote.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Henderson said: “More than 130 people objected to this development, and yet in the end it felt like their opinion counted for nothing.
“Today’s decision is obviously a huge disappointment for them.
“Unfortunately, the planning committee couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see past the fact that this site is in the local plan.
“The arguments we put forward that the proposal for the Croft is substandard and would irrevocably scar the view of the Eildons fell on completely deaf ears and the committee happily waved it through.
“Future generations will look back and wonder how it was possible that a housing estate was ever allowed to be built on the beautiful Eildons, but by then, of course, it will be too late.
“The members of the planning committee, bar the one councillor who objected, should be ashamed of themselves for the decision they made today.”