Councillors accused of ‘unjustified prejudice’

Monday February 21st 2022


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Developers have come under fire after they accused councillors of having an “unjustified prejudice” against controversial plans to build houses at a former school.

Lochay Homes took its battle to build 46 bungalows at the site of Wellington School, near the village of Howgate, to Scottish Ministers after Midlothian Council’s planning committee delayed a decision on the proposals.

And when they met last month and agreed they would refuse planning permission the developers lodged a stinging response with the Scottish Government Reporter.

In it they accused councillors of having a “lack of knowledge or understanding” of their own Local Development Plan.

However the Wellington Action Group, a community-led protest against the housing plans, have hit back saying the developers have shown a lack of respect to local residents and the councillors they elected to represent them.

In a statement to the appeal, agents BNP Paribas Real Estate, 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.”

Midlothian councillors voted on the planning application last month despite the developers already lodging an appeal with Scottish Ministers.

Their decision to reject the application was forwarded to the Reporter as part of the appeal.

The Reporter is expected to make a site visit to the rural spot as part of the appeal.

The Wellington Action Group (WAG) has lodged objections describing the new housing as creating an “isolated commuter desert”.

Concern over the impact of the new estate on Springfield Moss – a peat bog lying partly on the land, and moves to remove 15 matures trees in a protected zone to create a new access from the A701 has also been raised.

However developers argued the land was a brownfield site and pointed out it was included in the local authority’s Local Development Plan as an “additional housing” site.

A WAG spokesperson condemned the criticism of councillors on the planning committee.

She said: “It seems BNP Paribas are not only attempting to undermine our community’s views in regards to this controversial planning application, but also our elected members who sit on Midlothian Council’s Planning Committee.

“Such statements do little to evidence BNP Paribas/Lochay Homes commitment or indeed respect for this community, nor, to Midlothian’s wider citizens or the democratically elected members of Midlothian Council.

“It now seems clear that BNP Paribas and Lochay Homes are only interested in building houses solely for commercial benefit with absolutely no regard to the opinions and concerns of the local community or that of our elected representatives.”

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