Policy on the hoof warning

Wednesday November 25th 2020


Poltonhall Industrial Estate, Lasswade

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Councillors were warned not to make policy “on the hoof” in a row over an industrial estate this week.

Midlothian Council’s planning committee was asked to approve planning permission for a new business unit in Poltonhall Industrial Estate, Lasswade, which lies within a conservation area.

However, the virtual meeting heard that there had been 14 objections from people living in neighbouring housing and concerns were raised about a lack of parking and increased lorry traffic.

The meeting was told that the industrial estate had been operating on the site since the 1960s – more than a decade before neighbouring Mavisbank Conservation Area was created.

A report to committee set out the unusual circumstances which saw industrial operations sit alongside a conservations site.

It said: “The industrial estate is a long-established presence in the area and industrial use of the site pre-dates the creation of Mavisbank Conservation Area in 1977.

“The conservation area originally covered a smaller area than its current boundaries and was expanded in 1992 to cover land on the south side of the valley; the majority of the buildings on the industrial estate were in place at the time that the boundary was extended to include the site.

“Whilst the presence of an industrial estate of this type within a conservation area is an unusual situation, the scale and location of the proposed development will ensure that it will not have a detrimental impact on the character of the conservation area when compared to the current situation.”

The application by AHA Units 2let Ltd, which owns the estate, proposed a steel frame building in a corner of the estate, with no details of its use given.

It was described as “speculative” use by planning officers, who recommended the application for approval.

It was called in by Councillor Derek Milligan over concerns about parking and road safety.

Mr Milligan told the committee: “There are parking issues serving this site, it is already heavily used.

“The extension is going to have a small [amount] of car parking but it is not nearly enough for what is needed.”

The committee was told that the four parking spaces included in the plans met the council’s current requirements for applications.

Councillor Kelly Parry questioned whether the council’s parking policy needed to be updated.

She was told a review was ongoing; however, fellow committee members urged caution against going against the policy ahead of any changes.

Fellow councillors warned about punishing the “last man standing” by refusing to allow the unit to go ahead.

Councillor Peter Smaill told the committee: “We are in danger of making policy on the hoof.”

The committee agreed by seven votes to four to approve the plans for the new unit in the south east of the industrial estate.

Councillor Russell Imrie, planning convenor, instructed officers to take a request for an urgent review of parking policy to transport colleagues.

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