Developers win planning war over army field homes

Liz Beard, Duncan Campbell, Jason Rust, Bill Alexander and David Bewsey.
Liz Beard, Duncan Campbell, Jason Rust, Bill Alexander and David Bewsey.
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HOUSING developers have won a decade-long battle to build housing on former army polo fields at Dreghorn after a Scottish Government reporter overruled a council decision to reject the bid.

Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes said in a statement they were “pleased with the outcome” of the appeal that could see 75 residential homes being built on land south of Dreghorn Loan.

City planning chiefs had twice rejected proposals, which community groups claim could lead to Colinton’s population doubling in the coming years, on the basis it was not compatible with their local plan. A Scottish Government inquiry had recommended that up to 75 homes should be allowed – only for councillors to overrule the advice.

Ward councillor Jason Rust branded the decision “a black day for Colinton”.

“This is devastating news for the local community despite their best efforts and for all of the hundreds of people who have objected,” he said.

“It seems that Scottish Government advice about appropriate land supply has outranked the council’s city development plan. The decision has the potential to stymie the best possible comprehensive plan for the Dreghorn area once it is sold for development.

“This is particularly unfortunate since there seems to be no shortage of sites in practice and there is already a lot of uncertainly in relation to the Barracks sites.”

Plans to develop housing on the polo fields were first drawn up in 1999, prompting angry residents to raise £50,000 in a failed bid to buy the land from the Ministry of Defence.

Miller and Taylor Woodrow submitted a new planning application in 2004 for 47 houses, eight homes and a new access road. More than 1100 people signed a petition against it, and another 900 people objected individually.

The developers then appealed against the decision but withdrew before a public inquiry after getting advice on the “best way to get planning consent”.

A new planning application submitted in March was refused three months later, but developers Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes then appealed to the Scottish Government.

David Bewsey, planning convenor for Colinton Amenity Association (CAA), which opposed the development, said it was “disappointed” with the decision and the city council’s “less than robust” defence of its original ruling.

“For ten years the council defended their position and we find it really disheartening that they have now decided to give up,” he said.

“We are frustrated at the lack of robustness that the council planning department have put into the appeal process.

“We also made a formal complaint against the officers for which we have received a pretty pathetic response.”

But he said CAA would now seek to work with the developer.

“We are in favour of the right development in the right place,” he said. “There now needs to be a rethink of the whole area.

“We have never been opposed to sensible development in the right place but scrupulous, low-hanging branch development like this.”

He added: “This could be the greatest change to the area in 130 years.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com