Property developer’s hopes are flagging after planning refusal

A firm of Melrose property developers has, for a second time, been refused planning consent to erect four flagpoles outside a well-known building in the town.

The proposal was part of a facelift planned by Rural Renaissance Ltd (RRL) which wants to market the former NHS offices at West Grove in Waverley Road for commercial lettings.

The company, which owns the property, intends creating commercial offices, conference facilities and a wellness centre on the site.

But in July, the planning bid, which attracted three objections, was rejected by Scottish Borders Council planning officer Stuart Herkes.

Using delegated powers, he deemed that the flagpoles at the front of the building would be “disrespectful” to the character of the surrounding area and have an adverse impact on the nearby conservation area.

RRL boss Michael Crawford sought a review of that decision, contending that the poles, which would not be used for advertising purposes and would fly national flags, were necessary to generate “a welcoming and inclusive” image and would make the building appear “international and cosmopolitan”.

He noted that Mr Herkes had no problem with other parts of the renovation, including window replacements. He cited the recent decision of the council to fly flags outside its Newtown headquarters and said his proposal would, similarly, help positively promote the Borders.

Mr Crawford said his company had flown international flags from its main office at Priorwood for many years, with photographs reaching thousands of people worldwide when posted on social media.

But on Monday, after councillors on SBC’s local review body (LRB) had visited the site, they voted 3-2 to uphold Mr Herkes’ decision.

Mr Crawford told The Southern he was “disappointed” at the ruling.

“It’s a pity the opportunity for economic development within the Borders has been delayed,” he said.

“We had a business that was keen to relocate its East of Scotland office to West Grove and this would have involved 10 jobs. Due to the delay and uncertainty which this refusal has created, that firm can no longer wait. I respect this week’s decision, however, we will be resubmitting fresh designs, although it’s unfortunate the building will remain undeveloped for at least another three months.”