A CONTROVERSIAL bid to secure permission for a travellers’ site which has already been built on farmland near Tranent has been thrown out.
East Lothian’s planning committee refused consent for the four-pitch site by ten votes to four despite a recommendation from officials that it be granted.
The travellers behind the application for Muirpark Steading off the A199 between Tranent and Macmerry now have three months to lodge an appeal against the decision, but could then face being ordered to dismantle the site.
The site, which includes four permanent pitches for three caravans each and an amenity block with shower/toilet and kitchen facilities, has been operating for several months, according to residents.
There were 45 objections to the application for retrospective planning permission. Some claimed the site was not suitable for such a development and that it could affect house prices in the area.
A council spokeswoman said councillors had “significant concerns” around the appropriateness of the development in the countryside and also over road safety issues.
But she said enforcement action would not be taken until the three-month appeal window had passed.
David Forrest, chair of Tranent and Elphinstone Community Council, welcomed the committee’s “resounding” vote to refuse permission.
He said his main concern had been the way the site had been constructed without planning consent or consultation with the community.
He said: “I understand there have been issues across Scotland with travellers’ sites. Whoever built the site completely ignored the rules. The committee has made the right decision.”
He said he could understand the road safety concerns too. “The site is on a corner and it might be cars and caravans coming out of there could cause a problem.”
Kenny McLeod, SNP councillor for Fa’side ward, which includes Tranent and Macmerry, and a member of the planning committee, voted to reject the application. He said he could not support a significant development being given approval without going through the proper procedure.
He said: “It has been built to a high standard and I didn’t have any qualms about that, but to disregard proper consent was wrong.
“We have a recognised site at Whitecraig. You can’t just go and create a new site yourself without planning permission and without consultation with the local community.”
Officials had recommended approval, saying the site was mostly hidden from public view and had good transport links to other towns and villages and within reasonable reach of schools and community facilities.
The applicant could not be contacted for comment.