Controversial development goes before councillors

SBSR Whitmuir Hall
SBSR Whitmuir Hall

Councillors will be asked next week to approve controversial plans for 19 holiday lodges at a rural leisure complex between Selkirk and Midlem.

Businessman Alan Williams is seeking outline consent for the development at Whitmuir Hall.

A similar application was considered by Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee last September when 42 letters of objection were submitted.

Many dissenters were concerned about the environmental impact on nearby Whitmuir Loch, a designated site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

On that occasion, the committee was split 4-4 with the casting vote of chairman councillor Ron Smith leading to a deferral of a decision, pending further information from Mr Williams on his plans to invest in existing facilities which were described as “run down”.

On Monday, the committee, having visited the site in the interim, will meet again to consider the bid from Mr Williams who has owned the imposing hall and its grounds since 1989.

Representatives of Mr Williams, highlighting a recent £10,000 investment in Whitmuir’s swimming pool, have declined to offer a business case on the wider proposals for the site until a full application for the two-story four-bedroomed lodges is submitted.

But planning officer Andrew Evans is, recommending approval of the application for consent in principle.

“There is little robust evidence in the submission that is likely to fully satisfy the concerns expressed by members at the meeting in September, although there is a commitment to continue to improve facilities at Whitmuir as part of the wider redevelopment,” states Mr Evans in a report to councillors.

“Accordingly, members will need to consider whether the information submitted in response to the request by the committee [for details of investment plans] is sufficient to satisfy any outstanding concerns, and thus, whether to accept or refuse the application as it stands, or with the imposition of additional planning conditions or indeed a legal agreement.

“It is considered that the proposal complies with council policies on tourism development in the countryside.”