Residents say new house access poses a serious road safety risk

Villagers in Gattonside say the The Loan access to the site of a new house south of Abbotsbank is dangerous.
Villagers in Gattonside say the The Loan access to the site of a new house south of Abbotsbank is dangerous.

Furious villagers say they are considering reporting Scottish Borders Council to the public services ombudsman after the authority approved plans for a new house with “dangerous” access.

Developer Rural Renaissance was given permission to build a four-bedroom property at Gattonside, despite the council’s planning committee admitting it was uncomfortable with the proposal.

Seventy objections had been submitted against the development on land south of Abbotsbank, with the sharp bend and steep gradient of The Loan access road the main gripe.

One objector told us: “It’s a single track road and the exit is where the road is at its narrowest, on a blind corner. They are putting lives in danger.”

The council’s road planning service had previously said it could not support any new development accessed via The Loan because of the “constrained nature” of the road.

However, a report that went before the planning committee last week stated: “The last use of the site was as a market garden which would have attracted its own traffic.

“When this use was in operation, access was taken via the southerly section of The Loan and into the site south of Abbotsknowe.

“Whilst this access is not ideal, the previous use has to be taken into consideration and with some improvements, the access could cater for a single dwelling.”

The scheme was given the go ahead after Rural Renaissance submitted a traffic management plan stating that large vehicles would not access the site. Instead building materials will be switched from HGVs to smaller vehicles in the lay-by at the side of Main Street.

Members of the planning committee did raise concerns about such use of the lay-by, which, it has since emerged, contains a disabled parking bay. But planning officer Barry Fotheringham told them that did not come under their remit. 
“As long as the public highway is used legally, it’s not the council’s business,” he said.

Questions were also raised about the previous use of the land. Leaderdale and Melrose Councillor Tom Miers, chair of the planning committee, said: “It’s a very difficult case. I don’t like the way the applicant pretended there was a garden business at the site.”

However, after discussions the committee agreed to grant consent. 
Councillor Helen Laing said: “I sympathise with the objectors. On the site visit it was clear how narrow and steep that approach is. However the site is crying out for something and we’ve got a traffic management plan. It is not ideal that the lay-by will be out of use for local residents, but on balance I’m going with it.”

Councillor Sandy Aitchison added: “I’m uncomfortable with it, but in planning terms I don’t see how I can object.”

Residents who say The Loan is already over used have reacted angrily to the decision. One villager, who did not want to be named, said: “The council have been told the risks. They are putting the building of one house before lives.

“One of the officers at that meeting knows how dangerous it is because his wife ran into the side of a house to avoid a lad and his dog. Over the last two years there has been a huge increase in traffic through the village. I am considering writing to the ombudsman. We would hate to say ‘I told you so’ if somebody gets injured.”