A BID to site a major commercial storage container plant on a former gas works site in Innerleithen has been rejected due to flood risk and safety concerns.

Planning approval was sought from Scottish Borders Council (SBC) in July last year to site 30 storage containers on land west of Pirn Haugh in Princes Street.

The bid was refused and the applicants appealed that decision to a meeting of SBC’s Local Review Body on Monday (April 15).

Members were divided on the issue but voted by six votes to three in favour of upholding the refusal.

Tweeddale East councillor Marshall Douglas said: “The main reason for the recommendation is flooding. That in itself would be fairly contentious in Innerleithen because there is a great deal of disquiet over the actual flood risk assessments in that area of the town. There is no history of flooding in that area.

“There are many other reasons why that site would be unacceptable, other than flooding. I think given its proximity to the multi-use path, the fact that its on a route for children to go to school, a lot of pedestrians access it and a lot of other leisure users use that immediate area. I think it is just totally unsuitable for that type of commercial development.

“It would be unsightly in an area between housing. I think officers have it right in the sense of refusing the application.”

However, Tweeddale West councillor Eric Small was supportive of the application, saying: “In Tweeddale there is a demand for industrial units and I think this fills some of the needs. I known there is a risk of flooding here but we are talking about industrial use here not houses. I would overturn the officers decision.”

Councillor Jane Cox, for Hawick & Hermitage, agreed, adding: “This is a really difficult decision. It’s not a house and if people choose to use that area for storage it is their commercial decision. I would agree with councillor Small and go against the officers.”

Hawick & Denholm councillor Neil Richards also concurred, adding: “Anybody putting a container there is doing so at their own risk. I’m happy to see containers there.”

But councillor Donald Moffatt, for Mid-Berwickshire, expressed concerns, saying: “I think it’s going to have a severe impact on that house that’s there at the bottom, it’s going to an impact on a walking path that is well used by the look of things.

“In Innerleithen and the Tweed Valley, where walking and cycling is a pass-time, I just think that this is a step too far. I don’t think the risks outweigh the benefits.”

In his report refusing the application, SBC lead planning officer Carlos Clarke said: “Siting the containers would lead to loss of floodplain capacity and, therefore, potentially increase flood risk to other properties.

“The applicant was advised to reduce the extent of development so it is limited to the northern half of the site, but they advised that would result in only six to seven containers, making the use not viable economically.”

A supporting statement from Galashiels-based Ferguson Planning, on behalf of the applicant, said: “It is considered that the proposed development would not constitute a high-risk development that is vulnerable to flooding nor would it materially increase the probability of flooding elsewhere.

“The proposal represents a use on a brownfield site that would be of equal vulnerability to flooding as the existing use.

“The proposed development would not increase the risk of surface water flooding any further than the current situation, nor reduce the functional flood plain given the existing hard-standing on site.”