SCOTTISH Borders Council has indicated it would have rejected the March Street Mills development proposals had the owners not appealed straight to the government.

The owner of the disused mill, Moorbrook Textiles, wants to demolish most of the industrial buildings in order to build 69 new homes, but following heavy criticism at a council meeting in November has decided to try and get the application granted by the Scottish Government’s planning department.

The developers have appealed on the grounds of non-determination, meaning that the set time frame for deciding the application, which the council had negotiated with the developer in advance, has been passed.

Members of the council’s planning and building standards committee have now been asked to instruct the Scottish Government’s department for planning and environmental appeals (DPEA) how the council would have voted, had the decision still been up to them.

At a meeting of the committee on Monday 10 December, councillors highlighted three main areas of concern regarding the proposals.

The chief concern of the members of the committee was the relocation of the March Street Mill allotments, followed by the retention of the site’s historic buildings, and finally a lack of employment space in the development.

Local residents, Peebles Community Council and Peebles Community Trust have also voiced their opposition to Moorbrook Textiles applying to be exempt from developer contributions.

Tweeddale West councillor Eric Small said: “I think the site visit we undertook was very informative. It would be good to see allotments retained in their current position and I’d like to see more space given over for business usage.

“Looking at developer contributions, that needs to be looked at in greater detail.”

Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison agreed that the allotments should not be moved, saying: “Nowadays we appreciate the amenity of such communities and simply dislodging them is wrong. In my view this proposal is unacceptable.”

The proposed development site is the subject of two planning applications. One is a planning in principle application to allow the redevelopment of the site and the relocation of the allotments and the other is a conservation area consent request, which seeks permission to demolish some of the site’s historical buildings.

Councillors voted unanimously to notify the Scottish Government that in its current form the planning in principle application would be rejected due to the proposed relocation of the allotments to industrial contaminated land, with chair of the committee Tom Miers, the councillor for Melrose and Lauderdale, saying: “My own personal view is that if the developers can find a solution to the allotments issue then I would find the rest of the application acceptable.”

Councillors also voted to notify the Scottish Government’s planning department that although they were sympathetic to the need to demolish historic buildings on the site, they would also have rejected the conservation area consent application, due to the overall unacceptability of the proposals.

The plans have been met with fury by local residents, and so far the proposals have received 45 objections from Peebles residents, and a petition against the redevelopment has gathered 1,300 signatures, but more objections are believed to have been lodged with the DPEA.