Victory for former RN Commander in bizarre battle with Midlothian council planners

Victory: Morleymor FisherVictory: Morleymor Fisher
Victory: Morleymor Fisher
A former Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander has won his battle to save his new home after it accidentally crossed into hostile ‘waters’.

The cottage, built by Morleymor Fisher MBE and his wife next to their land at Cockmuir Farm near Penicuik, was given the go-ahead by Scottish Borders planners.

However, it later emerged that builders had moved it 20 metres north of its original approved site to avoid boggy land, and when it was completed more than half of the property had crossed the boundary with neighbouring Midlothian.

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Midlothian planners then refused to grant planning permission, leaving the owners facing have to demolish the house and rebuild it back on its original spot.

Planning wrangle: CreonPlanning wrangle: Creon
Planning wrangle: Creon

Creon Cottage was completed in 2018 but Lt Cdr Fisher, who received his MBE in 1993 for his Royal Navy service and is now known as the Laird of Cockmuir, appealed to Midlothian Council’s Local Review Body to overturn the decision.

At a meeting of the review body it was revealed that the boundary between the two council areas ran right through the middle of the completed cottage.

And since 74 square metres of the property were in Midlothian and just 64 square metres remained in the Scottish Borders, the final decision lay with Midlothian planners.

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Midlothian Council’s countryside policy is against new housing being built in rural locations.

There is an exception which can allow a new house to be added to a cluster of five properties which already exist in remote areas; however, the review body was told that neighbouring properties at Cocksmuir only added up to four – and three of them were on the other side of the boundary in the Scottish Borders and did not count.

Refusing planning permission earlier this year, officials said the house “was erected to its current incorrect location as (the) builder persuaded the client to move the house over to avoid boggy ground and the boundary was erroneously forgotten about when the building was re-sited”.

Lt Cdr Fisher, who had an illustrious career in submarine warfare, appealed to the Local Review Body, arguing: “Essentially what the case officer is suggesting is that this house, which has already been constructed and occupied, should be demolished and rebuilt around 20 metres away from its current position.”

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He argued that failing to uphold the appeal would lead to enforcement action being pursued which would be “wholly disproportionate” and not justifiable as in the public interest for the sake of 20 metres.

The council’s legal adviser Peter Arnsdorf told the review body that Scottish Borders Council approved the cottage because its own countryside policy was less stringent than Midlothian’s.

He said: “Scottish Borders have a different policy to development in the countryside. They do not have the same level of demand for housing for commuting so they are a little bit more relaxed about it.”

Despite the breaches of Midlothian policy, the review body decided to uphold the appeal and allow the cottage to remain after Councillor Peter Smaill questioned the benefit of forcing a change.

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He told the body: “I cannot see the public interest in doing something here.”Councillor Russel Imrie, review body chairperson, described the situation as unprecedented, adding: “I have never in all my years come across something like this.”

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