AN Ayrshire businessman will be allowed build a holiday lodge complex near Selkirk - but only if he upgrades the current facilities on offer.

Alan Williams has been attempting to gain permission to erect wooden cabins at Whitmuir Hall for close to a decade.

The converted Edwardian mansion and several nearby cottages is already a popular self-catering destination with tourists from all over the world.

But more recently many have complained about the adjoining leisure facilities, which includes a swimming pool and children's playpark, being in need of refurbishment.

Several objectors to the chalet proposals also voiced concerns about the lack of investment being made to the current facilities.

Following a year-long appeal to the Scottish Government, permission in principle has now been granted for a 4.4 hectare site next to Whitmuir Hall to be developed with up to 19 lodges.

But a condition of the upheld appeal is that a detailed improvement programme for the existing facilities is agreed with planning officers ahead of any work beginning.

Appeals Reporter Karen Heywood stated: "Many of the local residents have referred to what they consider to be the neglected and run down nature of the existing leisure facilities and the self-catering accommodation at Whitmuir Hall.

"Extracts provided of reviews from an accommodation website also reveal that people who stayed at the hall were disappointed at the standards.

"I observed at my site inspection from its external appearance that the hall itself did appear to be dilapidated, as did the children’s play area.

"I consider that improving the existing facilities would be advantageous to the tourist economy of the Scottish Borders.

"Part of the justification for siting the proposed lodges in this location relies on the relationship to the existing facilities.

"For these reasons, I consider the improvement to the existing facilities should be linked to the proposed development by means of an appropriately worded planning condition."

Mr Williams, who purchased Whitmuir in 1989, was initially turned down by Scottish Borders Council for plans to build 28 lodges on the nearby land.

And the subsequent appeal also failed.

His revised application for 19 lodges, which was submitted more than three years ago, was again refused by the local authority last April on grounds that he didn't provide “sufficient economic justification” for the venture.

Both applications had attracted considerable opposition from locals who were concerned about the impact on the nearby Whitmuir Loch, which is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, as well as the increased traffic on the narrow access road.

After considering the latest appeal for almost a year, which has included two site visits to Whitmuir, Ms Heywood believes planning in principle permission for up to 19 lodges should be granted.

She added: "I do not consider the additional traffic generated by the proposed development on the approach road to the site would be significant enough to cause serious road safety issues, particularly given the proposals to provide passing places.

"While it may be possible to glimpse the lodges in the western groups from certain locations along the lochside path, this need not have a suburbanising influence on the area, depending on the detailed design of the lodges.

"For example, timber-clad holiday lodges located within woodland areas in the countryside are not that unusual and need not appear incongruous in a rural area.

"Upgrading, extending and repositioning the existing facilities would result in a sustainable tourism asset which would help to deliver some of the key strategic targets at both a Scottish Borders and national level.

"The facility would be positioned and scaled, to take on board the opportunities of changing market trends, in particular larger family groups, out of season demand, and environmentally-conscious visitors."

A total of 20 conditions, including the facilities upgrade, size of the lodges, occupancy restrictions, and road upgrade, accompany the planning permission in principal being granted.