Community call for housing halt rejected by councillors

Saturday March 23rd 2024


Herdmanflats Hospital in Haddington is now closed.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A bid to stop housing being built on a popular woodland has been rejected by East Lothian councillors after developers said it had only received a ‘very low number of objections’.

Plans for nearly 150 affordable homes on the former Herdmanflat Hospital site in Haddington had faced objections from local residents with hundreds signing a petition to save part of the site last year.

However a meeting of East Lothian Council’s petitions committee today heard that the original petition had been withdrawn after project developer Hub South East objected to some of its wording and a new one had only gathered 43 signatures in time to be submitted for consideration.

And it heard from Martin Henman, from Hub South East, that the number of objections lodged to the plans through its statutory process was even lower – at just 38.

Mr Henman told the committee: “That is deemed to be a very low number of objections for an application of the size of Herdmanflat.”

Friends of Herdmanflat Hospital and Haddington Central Tenants and Residents Association joined forces to bring a petition to the council demanding a halt to the plans and more public consultation.

The petitioners argued many local residents did not know about the plans for the site until a planning application was lodged for the housing last year.

They said when people did become aware a petition was circulated which drew 300 signatures with a further 400 lodged online, however it was withdrawn after the developers objected.

The petition before the committee had far fewer signatures because of the speed in which it had to be pulled together, the committee heard.

Stuart Pe-Win, who represented the petition on behalf of local residents, said locals had been concerned by the apparent speed in which the plans had been put forward for public consultation and then lodged with the council.

He said that local community groups should have been consulted about what they wanted to see on the site before housing proposals were drawn up.

The petition before committee said: “We call on East Lothian Council and developers to halt their current plans for the redevelopment of the Herdmanflat site.

“We request that they restart the consultation phase and allow the local community to have a more significant influence on decisions regarding the future of the site.”

The committee heard there had been a number of public meetings sparked by the housing plan with local residents keen to see woodland which had developed on the site since the hospital moved to new facilities, retained.

However a report to committee from its housing services said reducing the proposed 145 housing units to retain the woods identified by the petition would make the development unviable,

Mr Henman told the committee that the NHS had intended to sell the site for housing when the new East Lothian Community Hospital opened and it was vacated.

He said it was earmarked in the council’s Local Development Plan for housing and could have been sold to a private developer but instead was sold at a discounted rate to East Lothian Council with a condition from health bosses that it was used for affordable housing for older people.

Mr Henman said: “It was sold with a condition the site would be used to support future health related services, in partnership with health and social care and would provide housing options for older people.”

The committee heard 100 per cent of the homes would be affordable and were likely to be rented to elderly people through the council or partner social landlords.

Council leader Norman Hampshire, committee member said that objectors to the housing plans would be able to lodge their concerns as part of the planning process and rejected the petition’s call to halt the proposals.

He said: “I do accept the objectors are concerned and that this is a large green space that will be changed into affordable housing, however the process we are going through allows the public to express their opinion.”

The committee unanimously agreed to reject the petition.

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