Controversial Wellington School housing decision delayed

A decision on controversial plans to build a housing estate on a former residential school in the countryside has been delayed after officials failed to send the paperwork to councillors in time.
The Wellington School site, which lies between Peebles Road and  Howgate.The Wellington School site, which lies between Peebles Road and  Howgate.
The Wellington School site, which lies between Peebles Road and Howgate.

Midlothian Council’s planning committee decided against ruling on the proposals for the Wellington School site, which lies between Peebles Road and the village of Howgate, until they can visit the site themselves.

The decision came after the application was added to the agenda for Tuesday’s virtual meeting too late for a site visit to be arranged.

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Officials told the committee the delay was down to a lack of “proof checking” before the agenda was sent to councillors the week before.

They said the application by Lochay Homes for detailed planning permission for 46 houses on the site should have been attached to the main pack when it was sent out.

However councillors were told: “The system we use showed the item in question as being included in part of it, unfortunately it wasn’t.

“Unfortunately when it was issued the document was not proof checked. It was a simple error, no reason for it.”

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Councillor Debbi McCall (SNP) called for any decision on the application which had drawn objections from residents of nearby Howgate, some of whom set up a Wellington Action Group when it was first introduced, to be delayed for a site visit to be carried out.

Cllr McCall told the meeting on Tuesday: “I spent a lot of time reading it over the last two days and the more I think about it the more I think the committee would benefit from a site visit on this one.

And Councillor Peter Smaill (Con) backed the call adding: “We were given a very small list of around five special sites that live in this sort of no man’s land between fully zoned for housing and windfall sites.

“I think we can’t possibly form a view on this without actually having a site visit.”

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Objectors to the proposed new housing estate pointed out it would be almost as big as nearby Howgate itself and questioned the impact on electricity, water pressure and other services in the rural spot, south of Penicuik.

The Wellington Action Group said placing the new houses in”the middle of nowhere” would create an “isolated commuter desert” which flew in the face of Scottish Government Net Zero targets.

It would also, they said, require an access road across part of Springfield Moss – a peat body.

However the developers argued the land is a brownfield site and the new estate would be made up of detached bungalows on a low to mid density site which would integrate into the location.

In total 35 objections were submitted to the plans which were recommended for approval by planning officers.

The committee delayed a decision until January.