Rigid rules are scarring our landscape

The vagueness and illogical decision-making by council officers and elected councillors relative to planning applications has often been brought into question, but perhaps even more so by two recent applications – the single dwelling at Knock Knowe and the vast estate proposed by Persimmon at Easter Langlee in Galashiels.

The former was a brilliant design by Richard Murphy which would have enabled his client to achieve a landscaped area restored to some of its previous beauty, while creating a building which seemlessly merged into the surrounding area.

That the officers moved to reject this application can only be described, at least, as uninmaginative and negative. For the panel to then follow suit, albeit by the narrow margin of 3-2, calls into question whether these five members have a single architectural degree between them. To suggest that the reason for refusal is in line with “policy” would seem to suggest that under the present regime the likes of Manderston, Paxton, etc. would never have been built.

Set against this is the council’s apparent championing of the housing estate. Having given planning permission for more than 100 dwellings on Phase 1, councillors are now prepared to consider an application for Phase 2 which, if fully built, will see a total of almost 500 homes crammed cheek by jowl on what would be a hugely over-developed site.

Leaving aside the factors already affecting the development – proximity to landfill and roads recycling facilities with their attendant noise and odour pollution, one road only exiting on to a “C” class road, lack of infrastructure and facilities, etc. – from a sociological and aesthetic standpoint these houses are but a reiteration of 1960s concepts that were found to be so wanting. No efforts to become more eco-friendly, no solar panels, no renewable energy.

These are but more of the builders’ “pattern book” house styles that can be identified throughout the country. When did Persimmon ever commission outstanding Scottish architects such as Murphy, Malcolm Fraser or Morris & Steedman?

It is a tragedy that narrow-mindedness, in tandem with an unwillingness to see beyond the restrictive “policy”, has denied the Borders what could have been an outstanding project.

It does not require a crystal ball to forecast the outcome of the Easter Langlee planning application.

Keith McCarter

Coopersknowe Crescent