The face of town centres in the Borders could start to change forever if two key planning appeals are approved next week.
Scottish Borders Council is currently considering a radical new approach to the criteria it uses to approve planning applications.
It could mean a relaxation of the rules on what type of businesses are allowed to move into former town centre retail and food units.
The proposed change is an attempt to reduce the number of empty shop units that blight our town centres and increase footfall into shopping thoroughfares.
On Monday, the council’s Local Review Body will make key decisions which will test that new approach.
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Appeals will be heard against the council’s refusal for Timebomb Tattoo parlour to operate at 52 Bank Street, Galashiels, and for a walk-in mortgage business to set up shop at 37 Bank Street.
The new policy approach states that more consideration should be given to allow ‘professional service businesses, non-profitable institutions and leisure activities’ to be housed in former retail or food outlets.
There has already been a precedent set.
The Local Review Body has overturned council planners refusal to allow the conversion of a former sweet shop at 37 Bank Street into a dog grooming parlour.
Timebomb Tattoo is hopeful that same approach will be taken towards its booming business.
Meanwhile, the company has received the backing of Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian, South Tweeddale and Lauderdale, as it attempts to overturn planning refusal.
Timebomb employs four tattoo artists and has been short-listed for an award at the Borders Retail Business Awards, to be held at the Peebles Hydro Hotel on Sunday, September 30.
In a report to Monday’s meeting, a spokesperson for the company says: “Our tattoo artists have full diaries up to six and seven weeks in advance and we have 200 clients a month. Most are accompanied by a friend or a family member who, while the tattoo is being made, visit local cafes, restaurants or shops. As such, Timebomb is a significant contributor to the local economy and footfall.”
The spokesperson also refuted the council’s original reason for refusal of the retrospective planning bid – that the business ‘potentially detracts from the vitality and viability of the town centre’ – adding: “There are a number of empty units on Bank Street and elsewhere in the town centre, particularly in Channel Street and Douglas Bridge. If this appeal is denied and Timebomb has to close, adding to the empty units, then that will certainly detract from the vitality and viability of the town.”
Members of the Local Review Body are to meet at council headquarters at Newtown St Boswells from 10am on Monday.