Controversial plans for a multi-million-pound hotel, garage and drive-through cafe in Tweedbank have been given the green light by councillors.
The £10m Borders Gateway development will be made up of a 71-bed Premier Inn, BP petrol station, Marks and Spencer food kiosk and drive-through Costa cafe.
Developer New Land Assets’ original proposals for the site included a larger discount food retail unit, but, due to concerns over the impact it might have on town centres nearby, that part of the plans was scrapped, leading to the number of jobs expected to be created being revised down from 100 to 80.
The Edinburgh-based developer also predicts that 95 jobs will be created during the construction of the development.
At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee on Monday, September 2, council convener David Parker spoke out in support of the application.
The Leaderdale and Melrose councillor said: “This application has been with us for about 10 months, and in that time the applicant has worked very hard in the local community on engagement.
“The application has changed in its scope as the applicant has been very careful about the views of the community.
“Attracting a Premier Inn to the Borders has long been an ambition of this council.
“Tweedbank will become the beating economic heart of the Borders due to the railway, and this will also benefit the communities of Melrose and Galashiels because the people who stay in the hotel will visit these communities.”
Appearing on behalf of New Land Assets, Edinburgh planning consultant Phil Pritchett said: “This is a very important and positive development for the Borders as it will create a long-lasting benefit for the economy.
“Premier Inn are very careful in their choice of sites as they expect to operate from these sites for many years to come.
“In addition to the long-term creation of full-time employment, the construction phase will also generate new jobs.”
No representations were made by objectors, but committee members still had to weigh up objections to the development submitted by residents and businesses.
Chief among their concerns is the potential impact on traders in Melrose, particularly hoteliers.
The plans garnered 177 supporting comments and 15 objections in total.
Speaking in favour of the development, Kelso councillor Simon Mountford said: “I think that the principle of having a hotel in Tweedbank is acceptable, and this particular site is only two to three hundred yards south of where we originally envisioned a hotel.
“This is actually a better site as this is right next to the trunk road.
“We’ve been wanting a Premier Inn to come to the Borders for a great many years.
“They have decided that this is the place for them, and if they’re turned away they are likely to find somewhere else in the UK for a new hotel.
“It is also catering for a different market to the hotels in Melrose.”
East Berwickshire councillor Jim Fullarton agreed, saying: “Competition is a good thing. We shouldn’t be afraid of it. This is a private development that will be a boost for economic development in the Borders.”
However, committee chairman Tom Miers spoke out against the proposals.
Mr Miers, a councillor for Leaderdale and Melrose, said: “Potential office space will be lost due to this application.
“There is, of course, a market for a hotel of this nature, but our policy states that this site is not suitable for this type of development.
“We need to look at what our planning policy intentions are here. While we are very pro-business, pro-tourism and pro-leisure, this particular application goes against our planning policy here.
“If we’re thinking of this as the gateway to the Borders, we wouldn’t accept a design of this low quality.”
His motion to reject the application was voted down by five votes to three in favour of Mr Mountford’s motion to approve the development, however.
As part of the conditions for the development, the road at the Melrose roundabout will have its speed limit reduced from 40mph to 30mph.