A Line in the Sand

LandscapeBlogWe’ve built some impressive policy sandcastles in recent years, defiantly hoping that the tide would relent. Then, we’ve watched silently as the waves continued to roll in…..

You’d need to look back as far as 2001 to find the first of the Scottish Government’s urban design statements ‘Designing Places’. This was our first step towards creating Sam Galbraith’s ‘conservation areas of tomorrow’. Since then, a range of documents have promoted a cumulative ambition of ‘master planned design statements for streets’.

Recently, the spotlight has fallen on the volume house builders and their suburban endeavours, which for many years have generously given people what they want. The response of our planning authorities in attempting to douse these sprawling flames might be described as unleaded.

Most recently, ‘Designing Streets’ promised to cull the cul-de-sacs. The reality was just another dead end street…..

So, it was with some surprise that I read of the Scottish Borders Council refusing a planning application (11/00677/FUL) for 82 houses at West Linton on the grounds of DESIGN. Admittedly, there are unusual circumstances, but this is undoubtedly a rare event. It’s the first I’m aware of (but please enlighten me if that’s not the case).

The story goes like this : Springfield submitted a proposal which did not meet the Council’s well considered design requirements, as they failed to recognise local identity and character. To illustrate the point, the Council highlighted design solutions for sites in other Borders towns, which HAD recognised local identity and character.

It seems the matter of local identity and character was not understood. Springfield appear to have effectively copied a Persimmon layout – one of the Council’s examples from other Borders towns – and submitted it as the revised layout. The Council determined that the proposal certainly reflected local identity and character – just not of the town in which it was to be built.

Now, I’m sure it’s a more complex story than this summary suggests and there may well be rights and wrongs on both sides. To be fair to Springfield, they have probably been surprised at the Council’s strict line on design because they haven’t encountered it before. Meanwhile, the Council has probably felt Springfield have been dismissive of its design policy.

Springfield might appeal. They might win. Or, the Reporters might recognise that the Council has acted within the terms of Scottish Government policy and guidance and their own SPG.

Ideally, Springfield will pause for thought and head back to the Scottish Borders Council for an honest discussion of design policy and the meaning of local identity and character.

Either way, a line has been drawn in the sand.

“Are you tired of sand being kicked in your face? I promise you new muscles in days ” Charles Atlas (1894-1972), classified advertiser and body builder.