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Information on the village of Newtown St. Boswells in Scotland.

Back to: Newtown St Boswells Village Redevelopment News/Update

Letter to SBC about Development Framework Comments

13th September 2011

Dear Mr Frater,

Village Comments on Development Framework Document

Please see attached village comments on the Development Framework (DF) which should be read in conjunction with the DF document under each heading. The comments are based on numerous surveys, open days and face to face communication with villagers about their wishes for the redevelopment plans (some 2,900 comments over five year period) but the comments on the DF are limited by the lack of village involvement and tangible information in the document.

As advised previously the village is very disappointed and objects to the ‘consultation’ procedure followed by the SBC which excluded the community from true engagement and participation in drawing up the proposals as recommended in the various Scottish Executive Planning Advice Notes.

The village believes that the lack of involvement in compiling the DF has created ‘substantive issues’ which need to be resolved. These are explained in more detail in our comments in the attached document but in summary are as follows :-

• Important decisions made with out community being aware or given relevant info.
• Lack of real community engagement and participation in drawing up DF.
• No feedback or discussion on comments made by community.
• Community forced into formal consultation with limited information.
• SBC Officers focused on house building approval/plans.
• No priority, attention or discussions on community development matters.
• Areas excluded where promises have been made to relocate and redevelop.
• Important aspects of proposed civic square do not meet wishes of villagers.
• No data to support car parking and road layout proposals.
• No information on important areas like Community facilities & Health Centre.
• No information on important areas like business development and job creation.
• DF appears to be only words with no SBC thought or information on implementation.
• Lack of future community consultation or project management program.

The DF document consultation was based on SBC Officers unilaterally deciding what should be included, what options should be studied, making a case in favour of one option, making a recommendation and only then asking for village to comment. (see more in Community Consultation in DF document). Bearing in mind this is the largest ever housing development in the Borders the procedure adopted was a far cry from that requested i.e. ‘full community involvement from the start’ and joint compilation of a plan with all those involved. This is a normal participative procedure for large development projects used across the country.

From the very beginning of this project the village has not been kept informed or consulted before important decisions were made. The villagers are now becoming use to sitting in the
Public Gallery at Planning and full SBC Council meetings watching the participants voting on major issues affecting Newtown St Boswells of which the villagers had no prior information on.( see more under Community Consultation comment).

In the case of the DF the village waited over 18 months, with no discussions or feedback, to find out whether the village comments collected had been included. Both verbal and a written requests were also made to see the amended draft DF document before it was presented and approved by the Planning and Building Standards committee. Despite this it was again first seen by villagers from a distance in the Public Gallery, whilst voting took place.

In order to find out more during the 12 weeks formal consultation the Community Council requested to meet SBC Officers to find out about their thinking in important areas of the development proposals. This included plans for improvement in community services, village centre revitalisation, business development/job creation and paths/cycle network. With one exception, this did not happen in the limited time available.

A meeting did take place to discuss the village centre traffic flows and car parking requirements which with the bad history in the village is a high priority to get right. However the communities request for a Traffic Assessment study was not agreed to by the SBC despite the community being advised by Herriot Watt University and Planning Aid Scotland that it was technically possible to build a model to do this type of analysis.

It is felt that without the analysis, and data, any comments by the village on the proposed village centre parking and road layout would be of little value and would be just guesswork. The concern is that at some stage as the 1,200 houses are built a grid lock will occur in the village centre. This would be unacceptable to local residents and would also discourage new residents from using and sustaining the village centre.

The Community Council‘s lack of involvement is extremely disappointing since there is a strong wish is to work together with the SBC and other agencies, in a positive way. We would sincerely like to see this happen in the future.

Lastly, from time to time we have been told that SBC intends to consult not just with the village Community Council but with other community groups in the village which is welcomed. However we enclose a short resume of what we understand is the Community Council’s legal status. It confirms that we are an elected, statutory body and have a legal and ethical duty to represent the community. We are therefore entitled to real engagement and participation on the redevelopment of our village and feel this can only happen with an extension of the consultation period and a willingness for SBC to give more priority to community discussions and involvement.

Your Sincerely,

Roger French
On behalf of Newtown St Boswells Community Council

Letter to SBC about Development Framework Comments, Scotland