SCOTTISH Borders Council has defended not disclosing a damning report which condemned plans for developing Lowood Estate, ahead of a decision to splash out more than £10 million was approved.

The report, produced by the property consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), determined that the Lowood portion of the Tweedbank masterplan is “unviable and undeliverable” and that “it is quite clear that what is proposed is over-development of the site”.

The damning report, commissioned by Middlemede Properties Ltd, who own the Upper Pavilion fishing beat adjacent to the proposed Lowood development, was presented to SBC chiefs months before the council purchased the land for £9.6 million in December 2018.

Once costs of borrowing and other fees have been factored in, the purchase will cost SBC around £11 million and forms parts of its wider plan to address a regional housing shortfall of some 811 units.

The Lowood site has been earmarked for around 300 properties, however the JLL report suggests that the development is unlikely to yield any financial gain.

The report claims: “Our conclusion is that there would be insufficient revenue to generate either a developer’s profit or a positive land value.”

In addition to questioning the economic viability of the development, the JLL report raises concerns that “the level of development and infrastructure proposed would seriously harm the environment and the River Tweed interests from a physical and amenity perspective”.

Stuart Bell, SBC Councillor for Tweeddale East, told the Border Telegraph that he nor other voting councillors were not given access to the report prior to rubber-stamping the planned purchase of the land.

He said: “I was unaware of this report and its conclusions when the decision was taken by Scottish Borders Council to purchase the Lowood Estate.

“I think that many other Borders councillors were similarly in ignorance of it which is worrying given the significance of its conclusions that the Lowood proposal is over-development and not commercially viable.

“This does seem strange to me when the report is dated March 2018 and I understand it was passed to council officers.

“Given the potential significance of the analysis and conclusions I have written to SBC officers asking for clarification on why this report was not brought immediately to the attention of councillors.”

Scottish Borders Council has defended both the report not being tabled and also the purchase of the picturesque estate.

A spokesperson said: “The JLL report was produced as a response to the Housing Supplementary Guidance document which the council was required to produce as part of the Local Development Plan.

“However, it was not submitted to the council until after the expiry of the public consultation period and after the Guidance had been considered and approved by the council in August 2017.

“There was therefore no opportunity for it to be presented to Councillors when they agreed to allocate Lowood for development.

“The viability of development at Lowood Estate was thoroughly reviewed in a series of subsequent technical reports that formed the basis of the recommendations made to councillors in private on May 31, 2018.

“The report considered by Members in March 2018 contained detailed analysis including a thorough consideration of market conditions which went significantly beyond the scope of the JLL report.

“We remain satisfied that the basis of the recommendations to and decisions made by councillors on May 31 is robust and includes a comprehensive review of all relevant issues contained in the JLL report.

“We believe this vital site is capable of delivering an estimated 352 jobs, as part of a wider masterplan for Tweedbank which could create over 670 jobs for the Scottish Borders.”