Bitter disappointment as Reporter backs Wellington housing appeal

Wednesday March 30th 2022


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Campaigners who have lost a battle to stop a rural site being turned into an ‘isolated commuter desert’ say they are “bitterly disappointed” by the decision.

The Scottish Government Reporter has said he is going to overturn Midlothian Council’s decision to refuse planning approval for 46 bungalows on a former school site on near the village of Howgate.

In a notice of intention issued this week he said he had found no planning reason to reject the proposals by Lochay Homes for the Wellington School site, near the village of Howgate.

The plans sparked a wave of protest from local residents who established the Wellington Action Group to fight it.

But despite their claims the plans went against the Scottish Government’s net zero carbon targets and threatened a peat bog the Reporter said he could find no reason to refuse planning permission.

Pointing to the fact the site was included in Midlothian’s 2017 local development plan as potential housing land, the Reporter said that having considered the objections “I have found nothing to justify the refusal of planning permission for a proposed development that is allocated in the development plan.”

A spokesperson for the action group described the decision as a travesty.

They said: “We are bitterly disappointed and, depressingly, unsurprised in the outcome.

“We believe the Reporter has chosen a completely blinkered and toothless option, hiding behind the outdated and out of step 2017 local development plan and the pro-developer proposals.

“How can the whole scale community objections against the development alongside Midlothian planning committee’s own refusal of the development count for nothing?”

Campaigners went on question how decisions could be made by people who do not live in the communities affected.

They said: “There is no point in any of the planning controls and rules if they can simply be cast aside by someone who does not live in the area and shows no consideration for the communities impacted or the opinion of our legally elected councillors.

“This is a travesty, not only for the local community here but should be seen as a warning for all residents in Midlothian and beyond.”

In a statement to the appeal, Lochay Homes agents BNP Paribas Real Estate, accused Midlothian councillors of a ‘lack of knowledge’ about their own development plan.

The Wellington site is included in the 2017 plan as an ‘additional housing site’ with between 50 to 60 homes potentially going on it.

The agents said: “We suggest that the debate and comments raised by elected members demonstrate a lack of knowledge or understanding of the provisions of the development plan in relation to the site, a lack of understanding of the proposed development including access arrangements, and an unjustified prejudice against the proposed development.”

The Reporter said he is “minded to grant” the appeal once a number of legal conditions including developer contributions and affordable housing elements have been agreed.

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