Family win late dad’s fight for country home

Thursday March 24th 2022


The horses field and paddock where the new house will be accessed from the A6094. Photograph from the Midlothian planning portal.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A dad’s long battle to build a house in the countryside has been won by his family who took it on after he died from Covid.

Vince Crolla spent nearly 15 years trying to gain planning permission for a home on horse fields at Meyerling, near the village of Howgate.

It had been argued that the pandemic demonstrated a need for rural homes when the most recent bid was considered.

Previously several applications for the site were rejected by Midlothian planners for breaking its countryside policy.

Son-in-law Tony Pia, who lives in Edinburgh, lodged a fresh application for the house on an adjoining field last summer citing the post Covid demand for health and wellbeing and working from home as a reason to change the council’s approach to new rural housing.

Initially rejected by planners, Mr Pia took his case to the council’s local review body who supported his appeal and gave the house the green light.

During a virtual meeting of the review body, Mr Pia’s representative Bob Tait, who had represented his father-in-law, said the family would now live in the home together.

He said: “The previous applicant sadly has died, one of the few people that I knew that has sadly succumbed to the corona (virus) disease.

“Now the family hope to be able to build a house here, like their poor father before them.

“They are Italian and Italians tend to have their parents stay with them so the idea would be that the mother would now come and live with the family, if this was to be approved.”

The plans for a house at Meyerling were first lodged by Mr Crolla in 2008 and other applicants had applied before then.

Putting forward a fresh application last September on behalf of Mr Pia, the agents argued that the Covid pandemic has shown a need for new homes to be built in the countryside.

They said: “There are many positive reasons for locating within the countryside, and there are likewise negative reasons for locating within existing built-up areas.

“This has become very evident during the 2020 to 2021 Covid 19 pandemic.

“Health and well-being, level of amenity, and access to the outdoors, makes a fundamental contribution to our health and well-being, while at the same time helping to connect people with the land and broaden understanding of issues relating to land use.

”Also, an issue which has become part of the new way of working, during and post-Covid 19 pandemic, is the desire and ability to work from home.

“We should design the properties to be attractive and functional for those who have a desire to live and work in the countryside, and to allow for effective home working.”

The new house will be a four-bedroom farmhouse with a garage, which will have living accommodation above it, attached via a glass walkway.

Mr Tait told the review body the family already kept horses in the field next to the land where the house will be built and travelled their daily to care for them.

Review body convenor Russell Imrie reminded members that a previous application, which was turned down by them was rejected over concerns about access rather than the proposal for a house on the site itself.

The new plans included a different access from the main road, however Councillor Dianne Alexander raised concerns about the safety of this alternative and the speed of vehicles on the route.

Councillor Colin Cassidy moved to support the appeal, seconded by Councillor Stuart McKenzie.

Mr McKenzie said: “These people are visiting the field on a daily basis going in because they keep their horses there, if they live there it is one less trip.”

Councillor Derek Milligan however backed colleague Councillor Alexander’s road safety concerns moving to reject the application.

The review body vote was split by three votes each and casting vote was taken by convenor Councillor Imrie who supported the appeal and planning permission was granted.

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