SCOTTISH Borders councillors are set to decide the fate of controversial plans to build 69 new homes on the site of a disused mill in Peebles.

The owner of March Street Mill, Edinburgh-based Moorbrook Textiles, closed it in 2015 with the loss of 87 jobs, and now wants to demolish large parts of the site to make way for a residential complex.

The plans were first submitted in January 2017, but consultation with planners at Scottish Borders Council and local residents has led to changes in the proposals, including reserving the gate house building for business use rather than residential.

At the time of the application, a planning statement was submitted to council planning officers by Manchester-based planning consultants Turley, on behalf of Moorbrook Textiles.

It reads: “The redevelopment proposals will enhance the character of the immediate area through regeneration of this brownfield site, returning it to active use and allowing it to become an accessible part of the town through creation of links through the site.

“The transfer of the allotments from private to public ownership is a significant community benefit.

“The proposals represent a sensitive approach to delivering a high quality place, retaining significant heritage assets and allowing these to anchor the development.

“The layout addresses the particular constraints and opportunities presented by the site and successfully balances the needs of the relocated allotment holders, the residential amenity of future occupiers and statutory requirements in relation to access and infrastructure.”

However, the plans have been met with fury from local residents, the community council and Peebles Community Trust, who wish to preserve the site as both a community asset and an industrial site.

The developers have since made some concessions, such as removing some of the housing from the northern tip of the development and replacing it with community and business space, although this has done little to sway the minds of some Peebles residents.

An objection letter, submitted on behalf of Peebles Community Trust by the trust’s secretary Myriam Baete, reads: “Broadly speaking, the revisions now submitted by the applicants fail to address our detailed objections and maintains the essence of what is an inappropriate, unacceptable, and damaging re-use of a site that formerly played an important role in the economy and employment opportunities of Peebles.

“As initially outlines, this planning application eschews any objective other than the pursuit of maximum profit.

“This is clearly exposed through the updated application, which appears to respond to the wide-ranging objections submitted by statutory and individual respondents while doing no more than maneuvering around them.”

One point of particular contention is that the developers claim in their planning statement that any contributions towards local schools or for the provision of affordable housing would make the development economically unviable.

An objection letter from Peebles and District Community Council reads: “These mill buildings have, as previously discussed elsewhere in the various submissions, made a significant contribution to the economic well being of Peebles; the provision of some relatively minor office space in the gatehouse and workspace in the area of the boiler house is quite derisory in terms of scope.

“The developers continue to believe that they should be exempt from making the contributions required of developers. In their original planning statement they argue that to make contributions towards education makes the whole project unviable.

“They also argue, in the same document that the project is also not viable if they must provide affordable housing; that these matters have not been addressed in the updated planning statement is of some serious concern.”

The works would also necessitate the relocation of the March Street Mill allotments, which has led to the local allotment association lodging an objection with the council and handing in a petition with over 1300 signatures against the proposals.

Despite these objections, officers from Scottish Borders Council’s planning department are recommending that councillors from the planning and building standards committee approve the plans.

The committee, which is chaired by Leaderdale and Melrose councillor Tom Miers, is due to meet at Scottish Borders Council’s Newtown St Boswells headquarters on Monday, November 5 at 10am, to deliberate on the proposals.