The proposed designation of development sites in and around Peebles which would be capable of accommodating around a thousand new houses will swamp the town and blight the lives of local residents, it has been claimed.
An 18-page paper which dissects and savages Scottish Borders Council's Main Issues Report [MIR] alleges secrecy in the preparation of the region's second Local Development Plan [LDP2) with no account taken of the town's creaking infrastructure which has schools at near capacity and the local cemetery virtually full.
The damning critique from Peebles Community Council is one of 330 responses to the MIR which the council will use to shape LDP2 later this year.
Not Just Sheep & Rugby has already brought readers details of a perceived threat from house building to Abbotsford, the stately home once inhabited by novelist and sheriff Sir Walter Scott. Here we present some of the issues contained in the Peebles CC submission signed by Les Turnbull, convener of the council's planning sub-committee.
At the outset, the community council say: "This response to the Main Issues Report (MIR) by Peebles Community Council has been informed by taking the views of many people who live in and around Peebles who feel strongly that their views and objections to these proposals need to be clearly heard to avoid the area becoming swamped with housing and blighting the lives of those who currently live here.
"Given that this consultation process is being carried out across the whole Borders region and affects so many communities, it is very surprising that the consultation process itself is not more transparent. Unlike the planning process where detailed plans can be found alongside other relevant comments and objections on the planning portal and open to scrutiny by all, this consultation process seems to be a private affair where officers receive the comments and then proceed to develop the next LDP."
"What drives many of these concerns are some of the rather glib responses provided by officers during the public consultation events relating to the identification of sites for development and the issues of infrastructure. It was said in relation to long term proposals that we should not overly concern ourselves with these because any development on these sites will be at least 10-20 years away. And, this is the issue; once these sites have been accepted for long term development and included in a LDP, then these sites will remain acceptable for development in perpetuity."
The community council claims there is a great deal of concern that Peebles is expected to bear the brunt of development which should be spread across the whole of the Borders. There appeared to be a gross imbalance between proposals for Peebles and the remainder of the Borders which was unacceptable and contrary to Government policy.
Another section of the submission states: "Many of the comments made by attendees at localities meetings have centred upon the lack of infrastructure that exists now, and that is before any further development is contemplated.
"Parents are anxious that schools, both primary and secondary, are very close to full capacity; they are concerned that further pupils will lead to overcrowding of schools to the detriment of current pupils.
"Everyone in our community is concerned about the current state of health services, with the ability of the local health centre and the Borders General Hospital to cope with significant increases in patient numbers."
The response warns that If these long term proposals (for around 1,000 new homes) were allowed to be developed then there would be ribbon development down the Tweed Valley along the course of the A72. This type of development would be wrong in principle and wrong in practice. It would detract from the natural environment which was vitally important to the success of the area as a tourist destination.
"Before further sites for development are considered there needs to be a root and branch review of the infrastructure which is vital to the well-being of our town. This review must examine the issues of: • Schools capacity. • Health facilities, to include GP services and access to hospital services. • Social care. • Sewerage and drainage capacity. • Roads into and around the town, this must also include a full review of Tweed Bridge capacity and the ability of our streets to absorb more traffic.
"It should be noted that concerns already exist with regard to all these aspects of infrastructure need; any additional development will only exacerbate an already difficult situation."
If, over the years, 1000 houses were delivered there would be at least 300 extra primary children and 250 secondary pupils.
And referring to the other end of the human life span, the document comments: "In Peebles the current cemetery is nearing capacity, the Community Council has been raising this issue with elected Councillors for a considerable time; no response or plans are forthcoming. This situation in Peebles is becoming urgent, a solution needs to be found."
In conclusion Peebles CC tells SBC: "Those charged with developing the LDP2 and any successor plans must realise that the geography and topography of Peebles prevents any further wholesale development of the town. In addition, there must be recognition that the infrastructure needs of the town are not being met now, further development will only exacerbate an already fraught situation.
"This response contains many questions as to why, despite many indications to the contrary as discussed in this response, Peebles is being targeted for the majority of the Borders housing allocations."
"Of course there may be some smaller scale development on, as yet unidentified sites, but the opportunity for large scale development, in our view, is non-existent. Any significant expansion of Peebles will require more supermarkets, leisure facilities, health facilities and schools. There are no sites available within the town to accommodate such facilities. It seems utterly fatuous to consider expanding the town as outlined without considering how all of these needs can be met."