Alex Neil speeds up plans for 1200 Lothian homes

Housing Secretary Alex Neil will scrutinise six developments, including the controversial plans for land off Maybury Road
Housing Secretary Alex Neil will scrutinise six developments, including the controversial plans for land off Maybury Road
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SCOTTISH Housing Secretary Alex Neil has intervened in the cases of six major developments across the Lothians in a move which is expected to fasttrack the building of more than 1200 new homes.

A controversial 670-home estate at Cammo is the biggest of the proposed developments which are now being considered by the Scottish Government after Mr Neil took the final decision on the plans out of the hands of local authorities.

It is thought the move will accelerate the planning process and kick-start much-needed housebuilding in Lothian, which is being tasked with finding space to create 30,000 new homes by 2024.

There has been strong opposition to much of the proposed development, particularly at Maybury and Cammo where a protest group has been set up to fight against development which many residents fear will swamp local communities and roads.

Among the proposals being considered by the minister are a 72-home estate planned for The Wisp; 173 homes at Old Dalkeith Road; 200 homes at Burghmuir, Linlithgow; 119 homes at Clarendon Farm in Linlithgow and a 52-home development at Old Craighall in East Lothian.

Developers for the projects have asked the minister to intervene after local authorities either rejected their applications or failed to come to a decision within the standard four-month timescale.

Under new planning guidelines issued by the Scottish Government, there should be a “presumption in favour of development” by councils in a bid to offset a future housing crisis. The move to call in the six Lothian applications has been hailed by industry figures.

Planning consultant Robin Holder said: “It is fair to say that the development industry is of the general view that not enough planning permissions are being granted for housing and this is demonstrated by the large shortfalls in current supply. The supply of more houses will improve affordability and create new employment. The government recognises this.”

Industry insiders said Mr Neil’s personal scrutiny over the planned developments was significant amid claims that staff at the national directorate for planning and environmental appeals had failed to implement the new planning policy.

A spokeswoman for Cramond and Harthill Estates, landowners for the proposed 670-home development at Cammo, said the firm was convinced the Scottish Government would back its plans.

“We’re confident that the ministers will take a positive view of Cammo and hopeful of a quick resolution,” she said. 
But Mr Neil’s decision has sparked concern among opposition politician who said it amounted to “an attack on local democracy”.

Councillor Nigel Bagshaw, planning spokesman for the Edinburgh Greens, said: “If the minister is trying to bypass the democratically-elected council and the national government’s own reporters, then it risks making a mockery of the whole planning system.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The revised Scottish Planning Policy includes for the first time a presumption in favour of development that contributes to sustainable development, in particular circumstances. At this time in the implementation of the new Scottish Planning Policy, Alex Neil wishes to take a more active role in monitoring its practical application.”

Planning chiefs at the city council said they were aware of Mr Neil’s intervention.

What’s in the pipeline?

• Development for up to 670 residential units, with associated works and landscaping, west of Maybury Road and south-east of Cammo Walk;

• 72 homes and associated works on land beside The Wisp;

• A development of 173 homes, with associated works, on land next to Old Dalkeith Road;

• 200 homes, including green space, access roads and other infrastructure, at Burghmuir, east of Springfield, Linlithgow;

• Construction of 119 homes at Clarendon Farm, Linlithgow;

• Development with 52 homes and associated works, at Old Craighall, East Lothian.