Midlothian Council ‘soft touch’ concerns over new developments

Wednesday September 13th 2023

West Straiton Loanhead

The area coverer by the Straiton North plans.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Midlothian councillors have called for a tougher approach to new developments after claiming the local authority is seen as a ‘soft touch’.

Concerns about the impact of new builds on the county’s roads, transport and health services were raised as councillors gave their views on proposals for a new residential and retail site at Straiton.

The Straiton North plans, from Straiton Estates Ltd, aims to create a ’20-minute neighbourhood’ with a mix of housing, community facilities and retail/business units.

However concerns were raised by planning convenor Russell Imrie over ‘premature’ plans to use the realigned A701 as access before the work has even been carried out.

And he suggested the council should be asking the developers to carry out part of the work themselves before considering approval the plans.

Councillor Imrie said: “I think the application is premature because the A701 realignment has not been carried out yet.

“If we, for example, get them to take responsibility for delivering that part of the A701 on an infrastructure first approach then that might be acceptable.

“Far too often the council is left picking up the expenditure for things that are not of our making.”

And he said with increased road traffic on the road already from other developments allowing more without a solution was neither ‘fair’ nor ‘sustainable’.

He said: “I would like officers when speaking to the applicant to put that down as a marker because I do think the council is seen as a soft touch on lots of things that we do and I think its about time we actually pushed back on this.

“It is not to stop development by any matter or means, it actually helps with development but at the same time developers have got a social responsibility to ensure Midlothian continues to flow.”

His views were backed by Councillor Derek Milligan who said the county was at ‘bursting’ point.

He said there was an ‘essential need’ for the council not only to ask developers but to ask service providers to confirm that services from road networks to public transport and GP and health services were able to cope with new demand before applications got the go ahead.

He said: “I think in general we now need to be asking across the board.

“We should be insisting our health boards, IJBs and bus operators are answering these questions for us so we can ensure the proper infrastructures are in place, because we are now no longer creaking at the seams, we are absolutely burst in Midlothian.

“The amount of development we have got and the amount our essential infrastructure can take are completely out of kilter.”

Councillor Stephen Curran also called on officers to bring a report back to elected members which would ensure they were consulted in future about any road closures or disruption future new developments planned.

The councillor, whose ward covers Old Craighall Road, which has controversially closed for 12 weeks to allow work at a new Cala housing development, said it was not acceptable for decisions to be made without input from elected members.

Councillor Curran said: “I know just now it is an operational decision by officers. I have to be honest and say I find it unacceptable that the democratic wishes of members is not being listened to, particularly in my own recent experience regarding Old Craighall Road.

“I would like to see a paper coming forward that allows democratic input from members particularly when we are looking at major applications with long term disruptions to local road networks. After all it is our local residents, our constituents that are paying the price for this.”

Officers agreed to report back on the issue to local members.

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