Plans for three luxury holiday homes near Bonchester Bridge have been given the go-ahead on appeal.
Claire Mactaggart had her proposals to build holiday lodges on her land at Hallrule Farm, north of the village, rejected by planning officials in April due to concerns over the rural nature of the site and the viability of the prospective business, but they have now been given the thumbs-up.
The development will see three lodges for holiday let use built on a remote greenfield plot to the west of the farm, with a new access road also being constructed.
The planning application sparked six objections from five households, with the main issues raised being extra traffic and the impact of the lodges on the landscape, environment and natural heritage.
After having her plans rejected, Mrs Mactaggart appealed to Scottish Borders Council’s local review body, and it has overruled the decision made by the authority’s officers under delegated powers to withhold consent.
In response, Galashiels-based Ferguson Planning, acting on behalf of Mrs Mactaggart, submitted a report containing VisitScotland statistics giving average occupancy rates for upmarket holiday accommodation, showing that five-star rooms typically achieve 95.05% occupancy rates.
East Berwickshire councillor Helen Laing told the local review body’s meeting today, September 16: “My main concern was what the land was previously used for and whether this was the right land for these lodges.
“Having visited the site, it is quite off the beaten track, and I can see how it would be attractive to holidaymakers.
“I feel the question over amenities has been answered and the business plan presented to us seems to show that there is a demand for this in the area.
“I’m leaning towards overturning the officers’ decision, and I feel a rural location is crucial to the business case.”
Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage told the committee: “I’ve looked at the business case, and at the examples given of similar businesses, and I know from speaking with friends and family that lots of people are looking for this type of secluded five-star accommodation.
“It’s very secluded and there isn’t much of an impact on the surrounding area.
“For me, they’ve answered all of our questions, and I’m thinking of overturning the officers’ decision.”
Councillors came to a unanimous decision to grant planning permission for the lodges, but they asked that conditions be placed on the development, including limiting its occupancy rates so that the lodges cannot be used as permanent residences.
The condition imposed on occupancy would prevent any individual from staying in the lodges for over three weeks in a continuous three-month period and for over 12 weeks a year.
Councillors also insisted on a private water and drainage supply and a species protection plan for bats, otters and breeding birds.
Tim Ferguson, boss of Ferguson Planning, said afterwards: “We are delighted with the outcome at today’s local review body.
“Our clients, David and Claire Mactaggart, have spent considerable time working on this proposal with the project team and trying to bring forward a truly unique proposition.
“The five-star holiday accommodation will be hidden in a valley not visible from the main road and will offer that truly get-away-from-it-all experience.
“It sets the bar high in luxury accommodation and will assist in bringing new visitors to the area.
“It will also bring many knock-on benefits to local businesses and the like and ultimately represents significant economic investment in a rural part of the Borders.
“We are pleased that the councillors have recognised the vision for this project and what it can bring to the Scottish Borders’ tourism industry.”