Linlithgow vet wins right to move to new surgery on the edge of town

A Linlithgow vet has been granted planning permission to set up a new surgery in an industrial estate on the edge of town.

Stuart McMorrow had considered leaving the town because he couldn’t find suitable premises to expand.

A chance conversation led to ambitious plans to grow the Westport clinic and provide better parking for customers.

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Planning officers had other ideas, and recommended refusal to relocate the vets’ surgery from the busy Preston Road to Mill Road Industrial estate. After listening to Mr McMorrow members of the Development Management Committee (DMC) agreed to back the move.

Westport Vets on Preston Road, Linlithgow.

It will create five jobs and help Westport vets’ clinic develop its technical and surgical facilities. There were no public objections to the move. Planners argued that the business should be retained within the town centre rather than on an industrial estate.

Mr McMorrow said: “We have been actively looking for new premises for over five years.”

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The vet had looked at 18 potential other locations, all too small or lacking in outdoor space. A conversation with Mr Hunter, owner of the garage which was repairing the vets’ practice ambulance, led to the proposed sale and conversion of the storage unit which Hunter’s Garage had been trying to lease for a year.

Mr McMorrow’s clinic is treated in planning terms as “Class 2”, which is a business that should be concentrated in town centre areas. However, Mr McMorrow told the DMC that his practice differs from other Class 2 business such as an estate agents.

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“We need more than just office space, we need secure parking for the safe transfer of sick animals. Our patients also need secure outdoor space when they are with us for extended stays.”

He said that without being able to relocate to the industrial estate he would have to consider relocating to Bathgate or elsewhere.

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It was also pointed out that a vets’ practice was already operating on an industrial estate in Whitburn and the Mill Road estate in Linlithgow had other Class 2 businesses such as an accountants and children’s play area.

Local councillor Sally Pattle said: “I’ve seen the congestion. Parking is a key issue in Preston Road. I’ve seen people trying to carry pets across the road to the surgery. That’s not conducive to a good experience.”

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Fellow Linlithgow councillor Tom Conn said: “I understood Mr McMorrow to say that his interest was because of chance conversation with Mr Hunter. In which case there’s a business opportunity which quite rightly that he wishes to pursue. Is the planning system designed to stop that type of opportunity for a business to expand?”

Planning officer Wendy McCorriston stressed the ultimate decision was for the committee. “ It is a balance for the consideration of the expansion of this business against the vitality of the town centre retail area. It’s about whether expanding such uses into industrial area is appropriate.”

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Councillor Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: “There are overwhelming material circumstances attached to this application which outweighs policy guidance and permission should be granted.”

The committee backed Cllr Conn’s recommendation to grant permission.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​