A planning application has been submitted for a new concept dwelling in a historic designed landscape at Carolside House near Earlston

Architect Richard Murphy's
Architect Richard Murphy's "Stealth-Broch" design for Carolside House

Landscape architect Tim Reid of Urban Wilderness has drawn up the landscape masterplan and carried out the historic landscape survey and restoration proposals, while architect Richard Murphy has proposed designs for a circular hill-fort style house.

The plan has already sparked debate as it proposes to put a contemporary-designed building into an established historic landscape. Some are likely to see it as sacrilege, but for Reid it is both the next evolutionary step in the landscape’s timeline and a “useful, perhaps essential vehicle to finance the expensive restoration of a historic landscape”.

The historic landscape and policies of Carolside House, near Earlston were divided in the late 1970s when parts of the estate were sold off. The West Park of the historic mansion was laid out in the early 19th century in the landscape style of Capability Brown, with the layout designed to take advantage of the steep contours of the landscape and to provide a dramatic setting for the driveway to the Mansion. But the West Park was planted-up as a commercial forestry in the 1970s and many of the original and historic landscape features are in danger of being lost forever.

The current owner, Robert Younger, has felled the Sitka spruce plantation and is seeking planning permission for a new concept dwelling, which will serve to enable expensive restoration so that the site, which now forms part of the Earlston Circular Path network, can be returned to its former glory.

Reid was quick to see the merits of a full restoration. He said: “It’s a wonderful part of the country and my first visit was dominated by the dramatic grandeur of the space. Our primary objective, therefore, is to consolidate the historic remnants and craft the next phase of this evolving landscape.

“A deforested, derelict hillside is all that is left of what was once the entrance to a model farm and a bastion of 19th century agricultural innovation. Despite its initial appearance, it remains a landscape of champions, with Sequoia, Douglas fir, Beech, Lime and Silver fir – some over 200 years old – rising to phenomenal heights. The restoration of this dilapidated part of the estate has become a vexing landscape conundrum, which the local landowner is attempting to solve.”

Edinburgh architect Richard Murphy was challenged with designing a house that adds value to an historic landscape yet in no way imposes upon it. He describes his design, currently on display at the Royal Scottish Academy, as “Stealth-Broch, where no one really knows whether it is a house, a fortification or an agricultural enclosure.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund, in association with the local Earlston Paths Group and the Tweed Forum, has already grant-funded the restoration of the Georgian bridge over the Leader at Carolside. It has also contributed to building and restoring a network of public paths on part of the historic estate.

Planning consultant, Antony Duthie of Clarendon Planning & Development, is keen to develop this important relationship with local groups: “We want to ensure that the restoration process brings the maximum benefit to the local community. The project will provide much-needed employment for local craftsmen and will also improve the overall amenity for the benefit of the wider public.”

A planning application has been lodged with Scottish Borders Council by Clarendon and is now open for public consultation. Duthie explains that “the redevelopment is consistent with the conservation aim of both Scottish Planning Policy and the Consolidated Scottish Borders Local Plan, which is underpinned by the requirement to support and encourage sustainable development.”

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