Readers' letters: Green belt land under threat in Straiton

In the latest example of their inexplicable planning decisions, Midlothian councillors have voted to allow a huge Aldi store and car-parking to be built in an area of wild grassland opposite the Ikea store in Straiton outside Edinburgh.

According to the report of their meeting, though this land is a big piece of what used to be valued as the Green Belt, the councillors gave planning permission for the store on the basis that they do not consider the area to have any ‘landscape value’ and that it is not really ‘countryside’.

Most people consider countryside to be a place where lots of plants and trees grow and which is a haven for wildlife, like this patch of land, but this does not seem to be the view of councillors. In recent times they have allowed so many housing and retail developments to obliterate fields and woodlands around Midlothian that perhaps they have forgotten what countryside actually looks like.

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It is hard to see what on earth can justify a new superstore here when Straiton already has a Sainsbury’s, an Asda, a large new M&S Food store, a large new Lidl, a B&M store and in nearby Loanhead there are a butcher, a baker and a Scotmid as well as many other shops.

Do councillors think we in Midlothian are all greedy shopaholics who want to spend every day in stores and care nothing about nature and the environment or preserving the Green Belt, which is disappearing before our eyes?

For those of us who do care, is there any way of reversing these calamitous decisions?

Julia H Scott and Tom Johnstone, Roslin.

Two-home owners don’t need a rebate

The Chancellor’s warm homes payment of £400 per homeowner applies, bafflingly, to people with multiple homes.

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Thanks to the honesty of a former chancellor and caring Conservative grandee Kenneth Clarke, owner of two homes, he admits he has no need of the £800 he will be receiving via the energy rebate from the current Conservative Government.

In the UK, 772,000 second home owners are therefore eligible for an additional £309m and some 61,000 who own three properties are eligible, staggeringly, for a rebate of £1200, costing an extra £24m!

Since it is impossible for anyone to live in more than one place at a time, that is roughly £330m that would be more appropriately disbursed to those struggling to heat or eat, instead of the Government rebate giving money to those who are neither living locally nor heating their houses and have no need of the grant in the first place.

For example, the official number of second homes in Scotland is slightly below 24,000, according to latest figures, many of which are concentrated in rural areas, raising property prices beyond the reach of local people and adding to the housing crisis in places like Skye and Tiree, where almost half of the homes are empty for most of the year.

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With second home-owners entitled to twice the energy rebate, it is a clear sign of how the Government values the interests of landlords and those with multiple homes over tenants and low-income earners.

DW Lowden, Aberdeen.

Cheese, please

Nicola Sturgeon has posted on social media that next year she wants Glasgow to host, on the UK's behalf, the Eurovision Song Contest, the very year she intends Scotland to leave the UK.

Her Facebook post announces this has attracted around double the number of 'likes' her previous post chalked up on about the supposed benefits of independence.

Martin Redfern, Melrose.

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