Takeaway policy u-turn

Thursday September 3rd 2020

Midlothian Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Councillors gave the go-ahead for a hot food takeaway just 130 metres from a school, against their officer’s advice and their own policy.

A meeting of Midlothian Council’s planning committee was told that the Hunterfield Tavern in Gorebridge had been operating as a pub/restaurant without planning permission for some time and had now submitted an application.

However, additional plans to open a hot food takeaway with a separate entrance at the pub were recommended for refusal by council officers because it was too close to Gorebridge Primary School.

Midlothian Council introduced a ban on hot food takeaways opening within 400 metres of any school late in 2018.

But the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown on local businesses led council leader Derek Milligan to urge a change of heart for the operator of the pub to support the local business as it moved forward.

And he pointed out that pupils at the primary school were unlikely to use the takeaway.

Questions were asked about whether a proposed new secondary school would be within 400 metres of the takeaway; however, the committee was told that location had not been agreed yet.

A report to the committee recommended approving the pub change of use to include the restaurant but refusing to give the go-ahead for the takeaway.

It said: “The application premises is located within 400 metres of the curtilage of Gorebridge Primary School and, as such, the hot food takeaway element of the proposal does not comply with adopted policy.”

Mr Milligan suggested restricting the takeaway hours to outwith the school day during the week, which was agreed by the committee as it opted to grant planning permission for the takeaway, which had already said it would operate between 4pm and 11pm daily.

Last year, Scotmid was refused permission to turn a shop it owned into a hot food takeaway because it was 235 metres from Lasswade Primary School.

The shop chain appealed to the council’s Local Review Body to overturn the decision, pointing out that primary school pupils were not out of school at lunchtime.

Its agent told the review body: “We have great difficult in understanding why such restrictions should apply equally to primary schools given that pupils in the latter are retained within school grounds for the entire duration of the school day.”

And he added: “In the circumstances, it is inconceivable to consider that the physical relationship of the application site to Lasswade Primary School in this instance would pose a risk to the health and wellbeing of any pupil attending it.”

However, the Local Review Body backed the decision by council officers and threw out the appeal.

During Covid-19 restrictions, local authorities have relaxed licensing rules to allow restaurants and other eateries to keep business going by offering delivery services and takeaway facilities without applying for permission.

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