A ‘LUXURY hen party mansion’ in West Linton is embroiled in a battle with the council after being served with a planning enforcement notice.

The owners of Linton Lodge have been renting out the 7000-square-foot mansion as a luxury getaway for groups of 15 to 30 guests, complete with cinema room, spa, two outdoor hot tubs, pool table and gym, since 2008.

The owner, Michael Gerard Cameron, of West Linton, has renamed the lodge ‘Greenloaning Mansion’, and charges groups up to £8,000 for a one-week stay, and even offers chauffeur services in and out of Edinburgh in either a black Bentley, a white Maserati or blacked-out Range Rover.  

However, the change in use had gone unnoticed by Scottish Borders Council, until concerned neighbours began to complain about noise disturbances by rowdy hen parties.

In November 2018, Mr Cameron received a notice from the council outlining its grievances. It reads: “It appears to the council that a breach of planning control has occurred within the last ten years

“In terms of the character of the property, the house, while having nine bedrooms is advertised as being able to accommodate 15-30 guests, with the master bedroom being advertised with six double beds along with another of the bedrooms being advertised as having four double beds, which is not normally found in a residential property.

“The characteristic of the use, where guests are generally visiting for a short period of time, and the numbers of guests being accommodated, has led to an increase in late night activity and disturbance within the area, to the detriment of the neighbouring residential amenity.

“As stated above the use is having a detrimental impact on residential amenity, with regular reports of late night disturbances being made to various council departments, including environmental health and the anti-social behaviour team as well numerous complaints to Police Scotland.”

Mr Cameron has subsequently appealed to the Scottish Government’s department for planning and environmental appeals (DPEA), saying that because the property has been used for this purpose for more than ten years the council could no longer object to the change of use.

Acting on Mr Cameron’s behalf, Edinburgh-based solicitors MHD Law have submitted an appeal statement to the DPEA.

It reads: “It is alleged in the notice that a ‘material change of use’ of the property has taken place.

“However, Mr Cameron has been using the property as accommodation for short stay visitors since 2008, and so for over ten years. In terms of the town and country planning act, no enforcement action may be taken by the local authority ‘after the end of the period of 10 years beginning with the date of the breach’.

“Mr Cameron therefore submits that the local authority is now barred from taking enforcement action, given that the use of the property as accommodation for short stay visitors has been in place for more than the period of ten years specified there.

“The planning enforcement notice says that the use of the property for short term visitor stays ‘is having a detrimental impact on residential amenity.

“Mr Cameron had been made aware of neighbour complaints and so reasonably assumed that if he addressed the causes of activities giving rise to those complaints he could reassure the council he was taking the matter seriously and minimising the impact of the behaviour complained of.”

The appeal statement also outlines the steps Mr Cameron has made in order to mitigate the noise disturbances from his property.

This includes removing two hot tubs from the rear of the building, and instead installing a new one in the spa, which has triple-glazing to minimise noise impact.

Mr Cameron has also proposed to remove the barbeque facility from the rear decking of the property, in an effort to stop groups of guests congregating outside.

Finally, Mr Cameron has proposed employing a night manager to monitor the property and sound levels between 11pm and 2am on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and to give the four closest neighbours a direct line to the night manager to raise any issues immediately.

However, the council has not backed down, and in their own submission to the Scottish Government, council planning officers state that because Mr Cameron still used the lodge as his main residence until 2009, the ten year limitation on change of use enforcement had not come into effect.

Ron Kirk, Scottish Borders Council’s managing solicitor, wrote to the DPEA: “By his own admission, as set out in his e-mail to the council on 13 September 2018, the

appellant confirms that the property was still being used as a main residence up to a period of time within 2009.

“The council respectfully submits that an uninterrupted period of use could not have been established whilst the property was still the appellant’s main residence and therefore the relevant trigger point for the ten year period in terms of the town and country planning act was the date in 2009 when the material change of use commenced.

“It is acknowledged that the appellant has sought to address concerns surrounding the anti-social behaviour and the consequent effects this is having on the amenity of the residential area resulting from the use of the dwellinghouse, it is the view of the council that these matter are not a relevant consideration in respect of this appeal given that the appellant has accepted use of the dwellinghouse for short terms commercial visitor accommodation is a breach of planning control.”

Mr Kirk concludes his statement by saying that “it is the position of the council that in order to remedy the breach of planning control in respect of an authorised use the only available route is to cease the unauthorised use and revert the back to the established use”, meaning that if the council is successful in its enforcement Mr Cameron will have to cease using the property for short-term lets.

Having received both sides of the argument, the Scottish Government’s planning officers will now conduct a site visit at Linton Lodge and make a judgement on the case, which is expected by March 2019.