"They saw the way the wind was blowing and didn’t like it" – that is the claim made by a Peebles community leader about the owners of the controversial March Street Mills site.

It follows Moorbrook Textiles' decision to bypass Scottish Borders Council planners and lodge an appeal with the government.

The firm wants build 69 new homes on the historic site, which has been widely contested by the community and local organisations.

Following a site visit, members of the council’s planning committee say they would have rejected the current application, due to the proposed relocation of the allotments to contaminated land.

But developers are refusing to give up, and have pressed forward with an appeal to the Scottish Government’s planning department, because the set time-frame agreed for a decision on the application had lapsed.

At a meeting of Peebles Community Council last week, convenor of the sub planning committee, Les Turnbull said: “The basis of their appeal is that Scottish Borders Council has failed to reach a determination in this particular case.

"What surprises me when I look at the planning statement is that there is no justification as to why they’ve made an appeal. It is just simply a statement of fact, that Scottish Borders Council haven’t made a determination by November 5, which was the end of the planning process agreement, so they’ve appealed.

"I would have expected them to come up with some reason as to why the planning department was not efficient but they haven’t done that.

“In their appeal statement they say that, because the issues involved are highly complex and emotive, it should go to a reporter for a decision. In other words councillors on the planning committee are not competent, that’s what they are suggesting.”

SBC will now notify the Scottish Government’s planning department of their objections to the proposals, meanwhile members of the public have a tight deadline to respond to the appeal – today (Friday).

Mr Turnbull continued: “I have prepared a response on behalf of Peebles Community Council, essentially reiterating our previous objections and highlighting the fact that in our view, Scottish Borders Council’s planning department has been dealing with this assiduously.

“I’m drawing their attention to the fact that they’ve made these comments in the introduction, which to me illustrate the opportunistic nature of their appeal. The bottom line is they saw the way the wind was blowing, they didn’t like it, so they thought they’d take it out of the hands of the council. It’s as simple as that.

“It came up at the planning committee last Monday. Unanimously all the councillors on the committee said that the allotments should not be moved, and therefore the planning application had it been in front of them for their decision, would have been rejected on that basis.”