Monday February 1st 2016
Phil Bowen, Midlothian View editor
Earlier this month the Midlothian Council Planning Committee held their monthly planning meeting and granted permission for a controversial development despite the professional experts within the council providing eight reasons not to.
The development now means that there will now be no green space separating Bonnyrigg from Eskbank and Dalkeith. The coalescence (joining) of towns in Midlothian is proceeding.
The planning department of the council had produced a 23 page report into Cala’s application, to build 56 houses on the Broomieknowe golf club practice ground, as input into the Councillor’s planning meeting.
The thorough report presented a detailed picture of the proposal, the consultations, the representations, planning policy and finally its eight reasons and recommendation to reject the application.
The report recommended refusing planning permission for the following eight reasons:-
– Protection of Green Belt
– Loss of Agricultural Land
– Undesirable precedent for allowing other residential developments on the edges of towns and villages
– Prejudice of the agreement process of the Midlothian Local Development Plan
– Undermine Green Belt Objectives
– The cumulative effects of this and other proposed allocations on transport infrastructure in the A7 corridor
– Access to the development from Eskbank Road
– The proposed development does not present a strong image for this site at the entrance to Bonnyrigg.
The report provided detailed professional and legal opinion to back up the eight reasons.
Yet despite this the councillors within 14 minutes decided to ignore the recommendation and approve the planning application subject to modifying the access to the development.
The first councillor to speak in the meeting said
“I am baffled by the comments [in the report] and I won’t bother asking questions as I will get professional answers“
So instead of asking the professionals whom the council employ and whom are experts in these areas, the councillor then decided to give his own unprofessional view on the likelihood of an accident in the area.
He also dismissed the argument that as the Midlothian Local Development Plan (MLDP) has not yet been agreed then it would be premature to allow this development to go ahead. The whole point of the MLDP is to have an open process for all, including residents, to agree where developments can and cannot be sited.
He scoffed as “nonsense” the notion that the Broomieknowe Golf Club practice area be described as agricultural land. However, within the report it describes why it is classed as agricultural land and whilst the layman may not immediately view the land as agricultural it does fit the definition especially in relation to the protection of countryside and green belt.
Another councillor spoke and again disregarded the argument that the application was premature as the MLDP had yet to be approved. However, as reported in the last planning meeting only 70% of responses to the MLDP, including from residents, have so far been drafted and the plan will not be ready for submission to the Scottish Government reporter until spring of this year with adoption likely to be in the autumn.
One councillor who spoke said he did not understand the premature argument point but said he would not delay what had already been a long planning meeting as he had decided to vote in favour of it.
Another councillor said he supported the application as it would make Broomieknowe Golf Club sustainable, which is possibly not a valid reason for granting planning permission.
Only two councillors objected to the application and it was approved.
So the questions is, why was a detailed report produced by the council planning department, professional experts in their fields, taking into account all sides of the planning process and with eight reasons to reject simply ignored?
The detail contained in the report would not have taken a trivial amount of time to produce and must have incurred a not insignificant amount of council resource to produce.
If the councillors do not need this detailed information, if they feel suitably qualified to make these decisions why have a planning department at all? Why not propose disbanding the planning department and save on its significant costs if it is not needed?
Midlothian residents would have expected a more thorough examination of the report and more consideration to the ongoing agreement process of the MLDP. It again poses the question what is the point of the MLDP if the council are to ignore it?
You can find the Planning Department report HERE.
There is a full audio recording of the planning meeting on the council website HERE. You are recommended to listen to it to get an insight into how planning decisions are made. To just hear the CALA application fast forward to 2 hours 27 minutes.
For another example of when the councilors ignored the MLDP see here, Hotel given planning approval in Pentland HillsTweet Share on Facebook