Alison Johnstone gives Midlothian View her view of the MLDP

Thursday July 23rd 2015

Alison Johnstone Green Party Lothian MSP

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, gives Midlothian View her view of the Midlothian Local Development Plan.

Say the words “Local Development Plan” and most people will glaze over, but you can bet that in cafes, pubs and at the school gate conversation is never far away from the impact of a local housing development, or concerns about school capacity or complaints about traffic congestion.

Those everyday concerns look set to get worse with the Local Development Plan for Midlothian. As MSP for Lothian region I want communities throughout the area to be given a stronger voice in the planning process. The dry-sounding document that is the Midlothian Local Plan is a classic example of communities being denied the chance of something better.

The Plan was approved by councillors in December – my Green colleague Ian Baxter voted against it – and comments were invited by the council until recently. It now goes forward to the Scottish Government for approval or rejection.

So what sort of future for Midlothian does it promise?

In short, it seems to envisage the county as nothing more than a suburb of Edinburgh, with more roads, cars and commuting. There’s a lack of vision for a sustainable Midlothian with good public transport links, connected communities, green spaces, land for growing food and initiatives to create satisfying, secure jobs.

The Plan calls for the creation of a new A701. This is not in any National Plans, will simply create more traffic, and increase carbon emissions and pollution. There doesn’t appear to have been consideration of any other transport options; we’d simply plough through good agricultural land and one of the last bits of Green Belt separating Edinburgh and Midlothian.

It calls for the expansion of Straiton Retail Park. This is at odds with Scottish planning policy which prioritises town centres over out-of-town commercial centres, and the retail park is not easy to get to by walking, cycling or public transport.

The Plan also ignores all the hard work carried out by the community in Damhead. They came up with their own Neighbourhood Action Plan. What we have is a local plan that does not correspond with national policies or community aspirations.

We can only hope Scottish Ministers spot these flaws and tell Midlothian Council to go back to the drawing board.

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