Councillors forced to end planning visit after confrontation

Thursday March 9th 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Councillors were forced to beat a hasty retreat from a planning application site after being confronted by a local resident over objections to the development.

The ‘unfortunate incident’ came to light after Midlothian deputy provost Connor McManus made a plea to the public to remember councillors are there to help, during a meeting of the council’s Local Review Body on Monday afternoon.

Councillor McManus urged people not to impede elected members in their work after they became involved in a confrontation on a visit to a site in Newtongrange where the owner wanted to build flats on top of a shop.

The application by Haysam Khan Sarwani to build a first floor extension over the shop on Hamilton Crescent, containing three flats, was refused by Midlothian planners over its impact on neighbouring properties and a lack of garden or parking spaces and received several objections.

He appealed to the review body who, as part of their decision-making process, visited the site on Monday morning, ahead of their meeting.

At Monday’s meeting Councillor McManus appealed to members of the public to let councillors carry out their roles.

He said: “There was unfortunately an incident on our visit today and I would just like to remind members of the public that we are here to help, we are here to make neutral decisions and if you could please not impede that when we are trying to perform our duties as councillors that would be great.”

Following the meeting Councillor McManus urged people who wanted to object to planning applications to use the channels available through the council’s planning system.

He said councillors on the site visit had been approached by a local resident who insisted they listened to their objections.

He said: “It became confrontational and impeded the visit, which had luckily already began to conclude.

“We were then forced to head back to the transportation and end the visit.

“I’d encourage all objectors in the future to follow proper channels.”

The review body was urged to refuse the appeal by Councillor Kelly Drummond, who said: “I have real concerns about this application, there is not enough garden space and there is not parking spaces in an area where parking is quite difficult.”

However fellow councillor Colin Cassidy said people moving into the flats would be aware there was a lack of outside space.

He said: “I think it is going to enhance the corner which is looking a bit tired and this is going to enhance that corner and provide housing.

“I don’t think car parking is a reason to thwart something like this.

“People are adult and if they are buying a house will see there is no parking and will make that judgement for themselves and with the garden I have the same point of view.”

The review body upheld the appeal.

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