Call to stop developers appealing if plan rejected unanimously

Campaigners trying to save Earthy got the full support of the council planning committee. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Campaigners trying to save Earthy got the full support of the council planning committee. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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DEVELOPERS should lose their right to appeal over any planning proposal where a council committee has been unanimous in rejecting it, an MSP has proposed.

The call by Edinburgh Northern and Leith Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm was prompted by the controversy over the popular Earthy restaurant in Canonmills, now set to be bulldozed after a Scottish Government planning reporter overruled the council’s refusal of permission to demolish the building.

Mr Chisholm raised the case in the Scottish Parliament, calling on Communities Minister Alex Neil to intervene to reverse the decision by the reporter.

And he added: “Does he not think it is time to abolish the developer’s right of appeal in circumstances in which a council planning committee has been unanimous in its decision?”

Mr Chisholm said he had been inundated with e-mails about the plan to demolish the low-rise building at Canonmills Bridge and replace it with two restaurants, three flats and six townhouses.

He told MSPs: “Literally hundreds of my constituents are appalled at the decision of one Scottish Government reporter, against the unanimous view of the city council’s planning committee, to allow the demolition of a much-loved restaurant at Canonmills in order for it to be replaced by an unattractive building that blocks a beautiful vista of the Water of Leith.

“Will the cabinet secretary do everything possible to reverse that decision?”

Mr Neil replied that it was not possible for him to reverse the decision. And he urged Mr Chisholm to take up the issue of developers losing their right of appeal against unanimous decisions of a planning committee with an independent panel which is reviewing planning law.

There was a sustained local campaign to save Earthy, including a 7500-signature petition.

Mr Chisholm said: “I’ve never known a single planning application to provoke so much concern.

“A lot of people might be thinking they would like to get rid of the right of appeal altogether.

“But I think a modest, reasonable proposal in these 
circumstances would be that developers should not be able to appeal when the planning committee has been unanimous.

“Planning committees operate by the individual judgement of the members. It’s not as if they are whipped to follow a party line.”

Ross McEwan, one of the campaigners who fought to save Earthy, backed Mr Chisholm’s call.

He said: “I think it’s a highly undemocratic process that’s taken place, that one person appointed by the government can overturn the democratic thinking of 7500 people, MPs, MSPs and councillors as well as the committee. It’s just totally wrong.

“The Scottish Government is supposed to be pushing ahead with ‘community empowerment’ but this flies in the face of their own policy.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com