A BORDERS farmer has been given the go-ahead to rear pedigree sheep after a housing bid was agreed.

Stephen Murray submitted a planning application to Scottish Borders Council to build a house on land south of Greenbraehead Farmhouse in Hawick.

He has invested in new machinery and intends to expand the flock there and rear pedigree sheep.

As Mr Murray lives a distance from the agricultural holding he claimed a worker needed to be housed there, for welfare and security reasons.

But the house application was refused on the grounds that it “would be unrelated to a building group and it has not been demonstrated that there is a robust economic case that the development will support a viable rural business”.

Mr Murray appealed that decision at a meeting of the council’s Local Review Body, members of which agreed to overturn the refusal, subject to a legal agreements being entered into.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Neil Richards said: “How much evidence of a business do you need? Frankly, this is an obvious farming concern and I can’t see any reason why we should not accept this as a business.

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“Over the years farming has changed, hasn’t it? Now they at the front line of crime and it would be a good idea to have more people living in the countryside, so I’m very positive about this.”

Mid Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffat said: “The concern that I would have is that this is just under 50 acres and I would question whether you could have a viable farm with that size of field.”

East Berwickshire councillor Aileen Orr disagreed, saying: “As a business I think it is viable. Anybody who knows the prices of pedigree sheep will tell you that it can be extremely viable. I would like to see more people living in the countryside, so I would support this.”

In a submission in support of the applicant, James Vesty, of neighbouring Ormiston Farm, said: “I have two employees and part of their employment conditions is a clause saying they have to live in a house provided, for the better performance of their duties.

“There are large periods of the year when it is critical that they are on site for animal welfare reasons.

“The other increasingly significant factor relevant to having people on site is security, of both livestock and farm equipment”.