Lowood Estate: Borders council approves planning guidance

PLANS for the Lowood Estate have moved a step forward following a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) planning committee.

In 2019, the council revealed it had purchased the land south of the River Tweed for £9.6 million the previous year. Some at the time suggested that SBC had overpaid.

The estate, near Tweedbank, has since been earmarked for a housing development and industrial estate – with the 34-hectare site allocated for mixed use development in the 2016 local development plan.

And on Monday (May 31), SBC’s planning and building standards committee unanimously approved supplementary planning guidance for the site, as well as a design guide.

SBC chief planning officer Ian Aikman said: “Within a relatively short period of time I suspect we’ll be very short of good quality business land within the central Borders so it’s essential that we provide that land.

“It’s an incredibly high quality landscape that we’re protecting and enhancing.”

Describing the presentation of the planning and design guidance as “the start of a process”, Mr Aikman added: “We’ve got a community that is willing to engage in a really positive way.

“We need to make sure that this is not just a site plonked at the end of Tweedbank, this is part of Tweedbank. We’re building a place where people will work and live and be part of the community.

“This is going to be going on for a number of years so we need to keep up that consultation with the community to make sure it’s reflecting what they want.”

A draft version of the supplementary guidance was approved by the council in January 2020, followed by a 12-week public consultation.

The supplementary planning guidance and design guide will be used in tandem to “guide and inform all development proposals and planning applications” relating to the Lowood Estate.

The council says this will ensure “that the expansion of Tweedbank is delivered in the most appropriate form and design”.

Chairing the planning meeting, Simon Mountford, of the Conservatives, said: “The design guide is going to remain current and valid for decades. There’s flexibility built in it.

“The Tweedbank expansion is not going to be done in the short term,” the representative for Kelso added. “It’s going to take 20 to 30 years to complete.”

According to SBC papers, the site has potential for 300-400 homes across a number of residential ‘zones’, along with being an “excellent location for a care village”.

SBC expects 179 jobs to be created during the construction phase of the Lowood site and a further 173 jobs in the post-construction period.

It is claimed it could have a “potential economic impact of £150 million GVA in the economy”.

The papers state that a new access road in the western part of the site will need to be created, while the infrastructure must be “appropriate” with the Galashiels Waste Water Treatment Works “nearing capacity”.

The supplementary planning guidance and design guide will now be presented to the full council at a meeting on June 17.

If agreed, the documents will then act as guidance for any planning applications for the development of the site.

East Berwickshire councillor Helen Laing, of the SNP, said she liked “the focus on net zero and being energy efficient” in the guidance.

Meanwhile, Hawick and Denholm representative Clair Ramage, also of the SNP, said it “sounds really exciting”, with Tweeddale West’s Eric Small, of the Conservatives, adding that there was potential for “something beautiful for Tweedbank”.

Border Telegraph | News