Midlothian biomass business to relocate to Scottish Borders

Monday June 19th 2023

Pentland Biomass

Pentland Biomass.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Paul Kelly

Midlothian’s loss is the Scottish Borders gain as approval was rubber-stamped today for the relocation of a successful timber business.

An application for planning permission for a timber storage and processing facility on land south west of Westloch farmhouse in Peebles was refused by Scottish Borders Council after it was decided that an economic/operational need for its location in a countryside location had not been established.

The applicant, Pentland Biomass in Loanhead, is part of Pentland Plants horticultural business and garden centre.

Bosses at Pentland Biomass sought relocation as its current site has been identified by Midlothian Council as the preferred location for realignment of the A701 road.

The planning bid also included a house for the manager of the timber yard.

After an extensive search for an alternative base the Westloch farm site was identified as the ideal location as it is within a recently planted highly commercial conifer forest.

But the application generated a number of objections amid concerns that it would impact on local residents health and well-being, resulting in increased traffic, smells and noise nuisance.

The company appealed the refusal of planning permission to the council’s Local Review Body today.

And members over-turned a recommendation from council officers to refuse the application, tied to a series of conditions being enforced, including restricted operating hours and noise mitigation measures being implemented.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Neil Richards, who along with other members paid a site visit to both the existing facility in Midlothian and the proposed operation in Peebles, said: “It may have an element of noise but in Midlothian it wasn’t much of a problem. If you look at the paperwork there are quite a lot of negative things about it but when you actually hit the site the positioning of the processing sheds are in a far north-west of the site.

“I feel the efforts to protect the site in terms of putting trees around it is a good idea. I think this is a good site and I’m in favour of approving this development.”

East Berwickshire Councillor Aileen Orr added: “Having seen both sites changed my view with the Midlothian facility being very close to houses. I looked at this to judge whether it was an industrial site or a forestry site, well, it will be partly both. If they are only processing four days a month that would certainly not impinge on too many people.”

In a supporting planning statement with the application a spokesperson for Pentland Biomass said: “Pentland Biomass is an established and successful business with a significant turnover and currently employs 10 staff. The proposed relocation of the timber yard operation from Loanhead to Westloch would represent a significant investment in the local rural area and would help secure the long-term future of the existing workforce as well as provide a range of new local employment opportunities.

“It is estimated that the new facility at Westloch would employ 10 to 15 staff on both a full and part-time basis.”

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