A BID to build a detached house at a former pioneering mental health hospital in Melrose has been rejected amid concerns over the impact on an historic community orchard.

Rivertree Residential Ltd appealed to Scottish Borders Council’s Local Review Body over the refusal of an application for planning permission in principle for a dwelling on land north of Ivanhoe in Dingleton Road.

The site forms part of the grounds of the former Dingleton Hospital, now converted into a successful apartment complex, with new build housing developments in the grounds.

The proposed site was formerly an orchard for the hospital.

The planning bid was refused on the grounds that it would “be an unacceptable loss of protected trees which would undermine the value of the site as a historic orchard of amenity value”.

It was a stance supported by the majority of the committee when they met on Monday (January 22).

Tweeddale East councillor Marshall Douglas said: “The old orchard there is ancient woodland which forms a very important amenity for the local community. If even a single house was built there it would take away the access to the orchard. It would no longer be a public orchard and available for residents and locals to walk and enjoy the benefits of, it would become part of a private garden.”

Mid-Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffat concurred, adding: “As an historical old orchard it should be kept as such. We don’t have tree preservation orders for nothing, it’s for the value and quality of the trees and one house on this site just totally takes away from the green area and protecting the orchard.”

Tweeddale West councillor Viv Thomson said: “This orchard is valued by the local community because of its fruit production but also because of the space it gives to people and the loss of that would be huge in that community.”

The proposals required the removal of eight trees, of which six are Category C (low quality) and two are Category B (moderate quality). A further one tree would be removed under the plans due to its condition.

A supporting statement said the proposal was to negate the impact of the development with a significantly reduced number of tree removals (eight from 17) and with an associated appropriate level of replacement planting for the site.

It adds: “Siting of the proposed plot in the western part of the site avoids any perception of loss of trees from the Dingleton Road frontage and, along with retention of the stone wall, will ensure the site’s qualities in the wider landscape are maintained.”

Dingleton Hospital closed its doors for the final time in 2001 and the main building was converted into apartments.

Through the work of pioneering American psychiatrist Dr Maxwell Jones in the 1960s, a therapeutic community model was introduced to the hospital, delivering a healing setting seen as transformative in its day, as well as instilling an ethos of community psychiatry, long before it was recognised nationally as best practice.