Controversial plans to build almost 70 affordable homes on the outskirts of Galashiels have been approved on appeal.
Eildon Housing Association had already been granted planning consent for 58 flats and houses next to Coopersknowe Crescent at Easter Langlee, but it wants to add 11 more and has now been given the thumbs-up to do so.
Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee rejected the Selkirk-based social landlord’s application to increase the number of homes being built to 69 in February, citing concerns over increased traffic on the C77 Langlee-Lauder road.
That rejection has now been overruled by the Scottish Government’s division of planning and environmental appeals, however.
Government reporter Amanda Chisholm upheld the association’s appeal, saying: “The additional 11 units over and above the consented development would have a negligible effect on traffic levels on this road.
“The proposed development accords overall with the relevant provisions of the development plan and there are no material considerations which would still justify refusing to grant planning permission.”
Her thumbs-up means Edinburgh construction firm Hart Builders will be able to start work on site in the near future with a view to completion in spring the year after next.
Ms Chisholm’s finding has been welcomed by the association, and its chief executive, Nile Istephan, said: “We are delighted that, following appeal, a reporter appointed by the Scottish Government has granted planning permission for the development of a major affordable housing site at Coopersknowe in Galashiels.
“This means that Eildon Housing Association, working with Hart Builders, will now take forward exciting plans for the creation of 69 high-quality, sustainable and affordable homes on this long-derelict site.
“We hope to start work shortly to deliver plans for a mix of family houses, maisonettes, bungalows and flats.
“Six of the bungalows will be fully wheelchair accessible.
“As well as regenerating this site and creating jobs and income for the Borders economy, this development will help to address acute affordable housing need in the area.
“The project is due for completion in the spring of 2022.”
In her report explaining her reasons for granting the association’s appeal, Ms Chisholm says: “One of the council’s reasons for refusal was the significant adverse impact the proposed development would have on the C77 road and surrounding public road network.
“Representations also express concern about the capacity of the C77 to accommodate further vehicles, given existing congestion, as well as about road safety, particularly that of pedestrians.
“Traffic flows average 1,770 vehicles per day, based on traffic counts taken in February 2017.
“Information from the appellant indicates that traffic averages 390 and 394 vehicles for the morning and afternoon peak-hour flows respectively.
“The proposed development of 69 residential units is predicted to give rise to a total of 93 vehicle movements during peak-hour periods, 48 during the morning and 45 in the afternoon. This would constitute an increase of between 11% and 12%.
“However, in considering the increase in vehicle numbers, I am mindful of the fact that the appeal site already has consent for 58 properties.
“Submitted evidence indicates that the additional 11 properties would give rise to 16 vehicle movements in total, eight in the morning and eight in the afternoon peak hours.
“The council argues that the addition of an extra 11 residential units, in conjunction with those already approved at this site, will impact further on traffic exiting the site onto the C77 and at the junction with Melrose Road.
“However, there is a commitment to upgrade the existing junction to a roundabout, assuming the land can be made available, and that would improve traffic flows at peak times.
“In any event, it is my view that the additional traffic numbers arising from the 11 extra units would have no discernible effect on the operation of the junction.”