Plans for house on corner site in Innerleithen approved on appeal

The corner  of Maxwell Street and Damside in Innerleithen.
The corner of Maxwell Street and Damside in Innerleithen.

Plans to build a house in Innerleithen initially shown the red light as the site was claimed to be valued green space have been approved on appeal.

Would-be developer Raymond Keddie had his initial plans to build a house at the corner of the town’s Maxwell Street and Damside rejected by Scottish Borders Council’s planning department after neighbours complained that the empty plot was used as an amenity.

His plans for the empty site have been met with six objections from residents citing the loss of green space and overdevelopment among their concerns.

Council officers initially rejected the proposals as they said the loss of greenspace would have a “detrimental impact on the townscape” as they’d been told it had been used for dog walking and other recreational activities for years.

That knockback prompted Mr Keddie, of Damside, to appeal to the council’s local review body, submitting evidence that the disputed land had once had outbuildings on it.

An initial hearing in March was halted so officers could dig out more information about the history of the land, and that prompted a rethink of their opposition.

In a report to last week’s meeting of the local review body, planning officer Carlos Clarke wrote: “The site has no obvious economic value as green space.

“Also, because it is fenced and private, it has no direct social value in terms of recreational use, albeit it provides an open outlook for the cottages to its west, which does constitute a social value.

“As regards environmental value, the key attribute it has is that it provides an open break between buildings along Damside and an open vista towards the aforementioned cottages, both of which make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the conservation area partly because of the open space in front of them.

“The townscape contribution of the site has been undermined to some extent by the erection of fencing around it.

“None the less, it remains a positive feature of the conservation area because it continues to provide some visual relief within the townscape.”

Councillors were in broad agreement that the space was not a local amenity and any building on it would represent an infill development.

Galashiels councillor Andy Anderson said: “With regards to the original complaints, which asked for a clarification of what constitutes green space, I’m not sure that is a green space.

“For the last 15 years, it has been overgrown and prone to fly-tipping until the owners took it upon themselves to fence it up.

“I think there are quite a few places like this in Tweeddale, and it would be nice to keep them, but I’m not sure how much of a benefit they are to the community.

“I do feel that what we are looking at is the amenity of the green area, and I’m not sure that what we’ve seen proves that the green area is an amenity.”

East Berwickshire councillor Helen Laing added: “I’m pretty much in agreement with councillor Anderson in that we haven’t seen any evidence to show it is used as a green space amenity.

“I see it much more as an infill site more than a recreational space.”

Councillors agreed unanimously to grant outline planning permission for a house provided that Mr Keddie makes a currently-overgrown right of way there more accessible by carrying out maintenance work.