PLANS for a £5.2m waste transfer station next to the region’s main landfill site at Easter Langlee have been kicked out by councillors.

On Monday, members of Scottish Borders Council’s quasi judicial planning and building standards committee voted 5-2 to reject the planning application – from their own council – on the grounds of road safety.

The decision – against the advice of planning officers at Newtown who had recommended approval – leaves SBC’s entire waste management strategy in tatters.

And the new council, due to be elected next Thursday, will face some major issues if it is to comply with the Scottish Government’s 2021 deadline when a ban on all biodegradable waste going to landfill comes into force.

The council will have to either lodge an appeal against Monday’s decision and hope it is upheld following an enquiry by a Scottish Government reporter - or find a new site for a waste transfer station (WTS) from where 52,000 tonnes of household and commercial waste generated annually in the central Borders and Berwickshire can be transported out of the region for treatment.

Landfill operations at Easter Langlee had been due to be phased out next year when the WTS came on stream, but that decision will now also have to be revisited.

The ability of the C77 – known locally as the Langshaw road and linking the landfill site to Melrose Road in Galashiels - to cope with increased heavy goods traffic was the key issue during Monday’s debate.

Two local residents – Norman Young of 2 Easter Langlee Cottages and John Birnie representing the Coopersknowe Residents Association – urged councillors to refuse the application.

“If this is given the green light we fear there will be a serious accident,” said Mr Young who lives close to the “pinch point” where the steep C77 narrows between the access to two major housing developments: the Persimmon project at Melrose Gait to the south and the private estate at Coppersknowe Crescent to the north.

“As well as being used by artics heading to and from the landfill site, the road carries commuter traffic, timber lorries, fuel tankers and buses.

“It is impossible for lorries to pass each other if they meet at the pinch point, yet we are being asked to accept even heavier vehicles at a time when, because of recent housing developments, we have many more children and families living in the area and using the road.

“In addition the 30mph speed limit, which is not enforced, is exceeded every day. I cannot emphasise enough that the C77 is an accident waiting to happen.”

Mr Birnie concurred, adding that the road was now increasingly popular with backpackers and walkers.

“Should pedestrians try to cross the road, they are in serious danger of being killed and, if the road is blocked when two lorries meet, there is no way that the emergency services could get through,” said Mr Birnie. “The road is totally inadequate to service what is proposed.”

Derek Ingles, SBC’s road user manager, said he shared the objectors’ concerns about the C77, but stressed that, according to a transport statement from consultants, the WTS would generate only an extra six HGV movements per day although he admitted that articulated lorries using the new facility would be carrying heavier loads.

He said the increase in HGV traffic was thus “fairly minimal” and less than that predicted for a waste treatment centre at the site which had been granted planning consent back in 2013. This consent was still extant (in existence).

“The minimal change in traffic generation is a consequence of the ceasing of waste transfer trips from depots in Hawick and Peebles to the landfill site balanced against the new waste transfer trips from Easter Langlee to locations outwith the Borders,” said Mr Ingles.

He said mitigation measures proposed by the council included improved speed limit signage to “encourage considerate driving”.

However, he said proposals to install a roundabout at the Melrose Road junction and to extend lighting up to Coopersknowe Crescent depended on the council receiving planning contributions from Persimmon as houses were completed at Melrose Gait. There were no guarantees as to when these improvements would be effected, said Mr Ingles, who added that it would lost “millions” to remove the pinch point on the C77.

Councillor Bill White, who will seek re-election in the Galashiels & District ward next Thursday, revealed he had walked up the C77 earlier this month.

“I was frankly shocked at the speed and volume of heavy traffic and I twice had to jump out of the way to avoid being run over,” said Mr White.

“The road is considered a secondary route for gritting and I hate to think what would happen if a 40-tonne lorry should skid on snow and ice.

“Since housing came to this area, the danger to pedestrians has intensified and I cannot in all conscience support this planning application.

“I would prefer to defer a decision to let the council come up with a better site for the WTS, closer to major roads and away from housing, but if that cannot happen then I cannot support this.”

He was told a deferral was not competent as the council had, in August 2015, agreed that the WTS should be sited at Easter Langlee.

Mr White’s motion for the planning bid to be rejected was carried by five votes to two.