Parking fears addressed but design comes in for criticism at old Kelso High School site

How the extra care complex being planned at the old Kelso high school will look.
How the extra care complex being planned at the old Kelso high school will look.
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Extra care flats and family homes will grace the site of the old Kelso High School after planners agreed to the conversion and partial demolition of the Bowmont Street site this week.

And although fears the new homes will create parking problems appear to have been allayed by officers, new ones have arisen over part of the build’s design.

The planning committee was happy with how the listed main school building, which dates back to 1939, will be converted into 34 flats for the elderly.

But councillors had reservations over the design of six of the 47 affordable homes planned elsewhere on the site.

“One would want to see some very special and imaginative buildings gracing the Bowmont Street-facing part of the site,” committee chairman Tom Miers said. “It’s a very important route into a beautiful Borders town.

“What we have is neither fish nor fowl to me. It’s neither art deco nor does it reflect the Victorian homes nearby.

“I feel they have not made a lot of effort with these houses.”

Kelso councillor Simon Mountford praised the retention of the historic building, the flow of and the homes within the main scheme, but called for a compromise to be reached with Kelso-builder and developer M and J Ballantyne, on the three semi-detached homes facing Bowmont Street.

“Given that Bowmont Street is a gateway into Kelso I’m wondering if the designs could be tweaked to better respect the sense of place.

“We are now in the 21st century, perhaps we could have something more exciting...I mean it’s just a bit boring isn’t it?”

At his recommendation the plans were approved, but building will only commence once revised designs on these six homes are agreed through consultation with officers.

Discussions will now follow over amendments to roof and window designs and rendering options.

Officers did, however, allay fears raised by Kelso Community Council over a potential loss of public parking spaces.

Kelso community councillor Harry Tomczyk told Tuesday’s meeting that the existing car park is well used by the church, bowling, tennis and rugby clubs goers and warned of traffic congestion in future.

“On an average Sunday there will be 35- 40 cars there and even more at the weekend when there’s a major rugby game on,” he said. “House numbers one to six face Bowmont Street but the parking for those homes is around the back. Inevitably people there will park cars on Bowmont Street.

“We are very keen that this development goes ahead. It’s a great idea but there are consequences in terms of traffic flow in Kelso.

“When you ask the developer about it they say it’s not their concern, but somebody, presumably the council, really needs to take action on the spin-off effect.”

Road planning officer Derek Inglis said the streets within the housing estate would be public roads and therefore available as on-street parking.

“We have given this some thought and there is definitely more parking on the site than is likely to be required,” he said. “Provision associated with the extra care houses is higher so there is a surplus there. There’s also a street where cars can park which is not included in the provision, so there’s a little bit of leeway there and Orchard Park was school staff parking before and there’s an access route to that through the development too.

“Bowmont Street is going to have strong street furniture to help control traffic speeds and parking for these houses is to the rear.”

Demolition of the teaching block, games hall, music block and canteen was also agreed.