Councillors approve Eskbank development despite road safety fears

Tuesday September 12th 2023

industrial style Glenesk Colliery 2

The site next to the former Glenesk Colliery on the B6392 leading up to the Justinlees roundabout.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A bid to build three ‘modern’ homes on a former colliery site has been given the go ahead despite planning officers concerns about loss of trees and road safety.

The application for housing next to Glenesk Colliery, Eskbank, was presented to a meeting of Midlothian Council’s planning committee this week with a recommendation from officers to reject it.

Officers told the meeting that trees on the site would be almost entirely removed and concerns had been raised about the safety of traffic accessing the site which would be accessed from Melville Road.

At the time of drawing up the report officers said the applicants had declined to make developer contributions to infrastructure as part of the plans but the meeting was told that situation had changed and they were now willing to contribute.

Members of the committee heard an earlier application for housing on the site had been granted on appeal by the council’s Local Review Body in 2019 but permission had expired.

Councillor Colin Cassidy, committee member, said little had changed in the plans presented to today’s meeting from the ones approved at the 2019 meeting.

He told the meeting: “I was on that committee and visited the site and the trees we are talking about here are not exactly specimen trees, they are trees that are growing on old mine works and have shallow roots.

“It sounds here like we are dealing with ancient oaks but we are not really.

“What else are we going to do with this bit of ground? This is going to improve it in my view rather than be detrimental to the area.”

Councillor David Virgo backed the view of is committee colleague criticising officer recommendations that seemed contradictory pointing out the removal of trees would improve the access to the site which was causing concern.

He said: “To improve safety you have to cut down trees but then we refuse it because they have to cut down trees. I am wondering if we just need to move things on and let them get on with it.”

Councillor Stewart McKenzie, who called in the application for decision by the committee said concern over a potentially dangerous road access had to be addressed.

He said: “If you know that road, it is a fast road. It is a double ‘s’ bend, it is blind with sold white lines up the middle of it for a reason.”

The meeting heard Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council, who described the land as an eyesore, welcomed the moves to develop it but had been unable to agree on the modern design for the new builds which had raised questions about their suitability in a conservation area.

Members were told that modern designs were not necessarily out of place in conservation areas as long as they enhanced or preserved the character of the area.

Planning convenor Councillor Russel Imrie proposed approving the application for the housing with conditions calling for a landscape plan to mitigate the loss of trees and ensure a road safety audit was carried out.

He said of the contemporary design of the homes planned: “I suppose it comes down to personal taste whether you like the shape of these houses or not.”

His motion was approved by the committee.

You can read the Planning Officers’ report presented to councillors HERE.

You can watch the Midlothian Council Planning Committee discussing the application on the video below:


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