Shock of new comes late to Newtown as modernism divides committee

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coNFLICTING views about the merits of modernist architecture were aired at Monday’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee.

Under discussion was a proposal from Olive McLean of Melrose to demolish a single storey, white-rendered cottage at Orchard Neuk in the centre of the conservation village of Gattonside and replace it with a contemporary family home, designed by acclaimed Portobello architect Matthew Johnson.

The striking single-storey section, with windows framed by white aluminium, will have a sedum roof while, on top, will be a two-story gabled section, roofed in grey slate.

Melrose Community Council and and Gattonside Village Planning Sub-Committee offered no objections to the application, while it was also recommended for approval by local planning officer Carlos Clarke who confirmed it accorded with a range of local and structure plan policies.

“The replacement house is considered likely to preserve and potentially enhance the varied character and appearance of the conservation area without signficant detriment to the amenity of neighbouring houses,” said Mr Clarke.

Senior planning officer Ian Aikman told the meeting Gattonside was no stranger to contemporary architecture and that the home built in 1969 by the late architect Duncan Cameron to the east of the St Aidan’s site was listed by Historic Scotland.

Also listed as a modernist building is The Rig, the home designed and lived in by famous British architect Peter Wormersley (1923-93) in 1956. Mr Wormersley also designed the Gala Fairydean football stand which was built in 1963 and is similarly listed.

The Orchard Neuk site lies high on the north terrace of Gattonside, next to the large property at Glenview whose owner Dr R. J. Scott formally objected to the application. He claimed the existing house to be demolished was “not at all in a state of disrepair and neglect”.

“The proposal to replace it with a building with materials and a design completely out of character with the adjacent properties in many ways flies in the face of our understanding of the purpose of conservation,” wrote Dr Scott, adding: “We certainly would not wish to look out from our sun room directly onto the ugly western aspect of this proposed structure.”

His was one of five letters of representation considered by the committee.

Councillor Nicholas Watson, while conceding he had reservations about how Mrs McLean’s design would fit into the conservation area, dismissed Dr Scott’s complaints over the size of the new house.

“It is Glenview which is excessive,” he claimed.

“We have to be careful about contemporary designed houses ... but in it’s high position, there is definitely a case for this,” added Mr Watson.

Councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre hailed a “very exciting design” which was no higher than neighbouring Glenview.

But other committee members were less impressed.

Councillor Donald Moffat said the gabled section was “far too high” and he compared the design to “something from a Star Trek film”.

Councillor Jim Brown continued the negative similes by suggesting the proposed house was “like a pigeon loft on top of a health centre”, while the committee vice chairman Councillor Trevor Jones opined: “I’m no expert on design but I know what I don’t like – this looks like a conservatory with a shed on top.”

On the motion of Mr Moffat, the committee voted 6-4 to defer a decision until its meeting on May 9, pending a site visit by members.