Westruther: Council planning chiefs overruled on house bid

ELECTED officials have overruled the council’s planning officers after backing a proposal near a Borders village due to “exceptional circumstances”.

The applicant, Donald McLeod, sought planning permission in principle to build a house close to Westruther with “specialist facilities” to accommodate the family’s specific health and welfare needs.

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) road officials objected to the development due it being unsafe for pedestrians to walk between the village and the proposed site.

But members of the local authority’s planning and building standards committee supported the applicant at a meeting on Monday (December 10), with Mid Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffat describing it as “the right thing to do”.

Council leader Mark Rowley, of the Conservatives, took the “very rare” step of calling in the application.

Speaking at the meeting he said: “I initiated the call in after becoming aware of the McLeod family’s very unique challenges and the equally unique opportunity to mitigate them here on this site thanks to the generous support of neighbours.”

The leader, who is also a Mid Berwickshire councillor, added that the house would “keep the family at the heart of their community”.

According to Barry Fotheringham, SBC principal planning officer, the community council and seven healthcare professionals gave their support to the house proposal.

But SBC planning officials recommended that the application should be refused due to pedestrian safety concerns, as well as the potential for “a significant adverse impact upon the composition and quality of the landscape character”.

A report published ahead of the meeting states: “Whilst acknowledging the applicant’s personal circumstances, there are no material planning considerations that would support the erection of a dwelling in this particular location, and there are no known extenuating circumstances or other material considerations, which indicate support for this development as an exception from the Local Development Plan. Regrettably, the principle of development is not considered acceptable in this location.”

It adds: “The planning authority understands the applicant’s circumstances and need to find alternative, fit for purpose family accommodation that meets their very specific needs. Unfortunately, their very specific personal circumstances are not material to the assessment of this application and cannot be taken into account when determining the acceptability, or otherwise, of the proposed development.”

However, at the meeting Mr Moffat, of the SNP, moved a formal proposal to approve the plans which was seconded by Hawick representative Clair Ramage.

He said: “The family want to stay in the community where they have got a support mechanism. It’s important in cementing a local community together and stopping rural depopulation.

“These are definitely exceptional circumstances. In pure planning terms I’ve heard what has been said and normally you wouldn’t take certain things into consideration.

“I don’t often disagree with the planning officers [but] I would quite happily approve this in principle because it’s the right thing to do.”

Border Telegraph | News