CAMPAIGNERS say their concerns “fell on deaf ears” after Scottish Borders Council approved a controversial planning development on the foot of the Eildon Hills. 

Rural Renaissance, the contracting arm of Melrose-based JS Crawford property developers, wants to build 28 homes on the Croft, near Dingleton Road, Melrose.

Some of the new properties would tower 15m about the height of Dingleton Road, and the council has so far received 131 objections and representations.

However, councillors sitting on Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee, which met on Monday July 1, opted to stick with planning officer’s recommendation to approve the development. 

Speaking at the meeting on behalf of the ‘Don’t Build on the Eildons’ campaign group, Melrose resident Carrie Henderson told councillors: “Bad design has been compounded by certain stipulations made in the planning brief. 

“The requirement for a road to loop around the nursery, when combined with the awkward levels on the site, have results in plans for houses on the southern slopes being some 15 metres higher than the level of the road.

“Be in no doubt, this housing estate will be dominant, intrusive and jarring. It will be an eyesore.”

Philip Neaves, from Edinburgh-based Felsham Planning and Development, spoke on behalf of Rural Renaissance.

He said: “The Croft is an allocated development site that was allocated in 2006. 

“The reporter who allocated the site would have been well aware of the sensitivity of the site but has still allocated it. 

“What we have is proposals for 21 houses for private sale and seven affordable housing units. 

“The site, when viewed from Melrose, appears as part of the settlement, not the countryside, and views of the site from the Eildons are limited.

“There are significant economic benefits to the development, not just for employment during the construction phase but for nearby residents as well.”

Nearly all of the councillors expressed reservations about the development, but only one, Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison, voted against the proposals. 

He told the committee: “The fact is the reporter has made a big mistake here and the land should never have been allocated for housing in the first place.

“Furthermore, I don’t like the fact we’ve got affordable housing as a token gesture, it’s not spread out in the site and there are no family homes.

"Do people who need affordable homes not have families?

“There are so many objections. Many are from elsewhere and they are asking us to step in and protect this site which we as a local authority are charged with protecting. 

“I really object to this application for a number of reasons.”

Melrose and Leaderdale councillor Tom Miers, who chairs the committee, also criticised the proposals but said he believes it can be accepted if the council imposes certain planning conditions: “I have real problems with the design and concept. I think the houses at the back are much too high and they stick out too much. 

“The middle three in particular, which will be at the back of the site, should be reduced in height.”

He suggested that the houses be reduced, by way of a planning condition, from three storey houses down to two storey. 

All councillors except councillor Aitchison were in agreement, and as he failed to find a seconder for his motion to reject the application, the proposals were granted planning permission without the need for a vote.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Henderson said: “Over 130 people objected to this development and yet in the end it felt like their opinion counted for nothing. Today’s decision is obviously a huge disappointment for them.  

“Unfortunately, the planning committee couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see past the fact that this site is in the local plan. 

“The arguments we put forward that the proposal for the Croft is sub-standard and would irrevocably scar the view of the Eildons fell on completely deaf ears and the committee happily waved it through. 

“Future generations will look back and wonder how it was possible that a housing estate was ever allowed to be built on the beautiful Eildons. But by then, of course, it will be too late. 

“The members of the planning committee, bar the one councillor who objected, should be ashamed of themselves for the decision they made today.”