Motocross farmer wins appeal to keep racing

Friday February 10th 2023


Sheep grazing on the motocross track at Humbie.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A farmer has won the right to keep a motocross track on his land after planners missed the deadline to demand its removal by five days.

James Nisbet took his fight with East Lothian Council to Scottish Ministers after the local authority issued an enforcement notice on the track.

He contended that the council notice was not lawful because it was issued more than four years after the track was ‘substantially completed’.

Planners had argued the track was not completed when it was issued, using social media posts to back their claims.

However the Scottish Government Reporter has rejected their claims saying the social media posts did not provide “firm evidence”.

East Lothian Council said it issued the enforcement notice on October 18, 2022 and it was served to Mr Nisbet the following day.

However planning laws say such a notice must be served within four years of the project being substantially completed – something Mr Nisbet argued had happened by October 13, 2018.

In his report on the appeal, the Reporter said: “The planning authority and representations rely on social media posts from Facebook and YouTube as evidence that the racetrack was not substantially completed until late October or early November 2018.

“The Facebook posts from 1 November 2018 identify that a new track has been completed and fully tested at some point in the previous month.

“An extract from YouTube indicates that the track was still under construction in October 2018, but no specific dates are presented.

“My assessment of these social media posts is that they do not provide firm evidence that the track was not substantially completed by 13 October 2018. They only support the position that works were undertaken at an undefined point within that month and the track was completed to a state to enable testing.

“Overall, the full body of evidence does not demonstrate that the racetrack was not substantially completed by 13 October 2018. On this basis I find that, on the balance of probability, the operations were substantially completed four years prior to the enforcement action being taken and out with the timescale set. The operational development to create the racetrack is therefore lawful.”

Mr Nisbet had argued that there had been motocross tracks on different parts of Bughtknowe Farm, Humbie, for 20 years without any need for planning permission.

And he said there were no grounds to have it removed as separate planning laws said if it was not used for more than 28 days of the year for racing and was returned to agricultural use the rest of the year it was permitted development.

He provided photographs of sheep grazing on the track to show it was used as farmland when not hosting events.

Mr Nisbet’s case received huge support from the motocross community who wrote to the Reporter in support of the facility.

However local residents who objected to the track told the Reporter noise from racing days was ‘devastating’.

One local couple said: “When the track was operational the noise was completely devastating.

“We are a farming community and the track is completely unacceptable in Humbie.”

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