Scottish Ministers to rule on Hillend housing plans

A bid to turn a ‘troubled’ greenbelt site into housing will go before Scottish Ministers for a final ruling after councillors gave it their backing despite road safety concerns.

By Marie Sharp, LDR
Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 4:00 pm
The land, which lies 70 metres north of the A702 junction with Pentland Road and the A703, has not been used as a petrol station for 20 years and in recent times has had car wash services and Christmas tree sellers use it.
The land, which lies 70 metres north of the A702 junction with Pentland Road and the A703, has not been used as a petrol station for 20 years and in recent times has had car wash services and Christmas tree sellers use it.

The plans for the former petrol station site at Hillend were refused planning permission by Midlothian planners in August this year after they raised concerns about road safety and dubbed the gardens for the homes too small.

A meeting of Midlothian Council’s Local Review Body this week was told that Transport Scotland had also objected due to a lack of adequate information about the impact of the new housing next to the A702 trunk road.

Both Midlothian planners and Transport Scotland had called for a road safety audit to be produced before the housing could be approved.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

However the Local Review Body overturned council officers’ decision to uphold an appeal and grant planning permission by five votes to three after ruling the proposals were the best solution for the site.

The review body was told the application for nine steading-styled housing units would now have to be referred to Scottish Ministers because Transport Scotland is a statutory body and its objection remained.

Applicants C.M. Roofing and Building Ltd had argued that while council planners had other objections to their proposal including opposing the design of the steading-style buildings, size of the gardens and car park layout, it made no sense to fund a safety audit.

Their agent George Gilbert said that while they were committed to carrying out a road safety audit they did not want to take on the expense while the council was against granting planning permission for other reasons.

He argued that if the review body upheld the appeal then it would make more sense to invest money in an audit.

However the council’s planning officers argued that it was impossible to grant planning permission without a transport audit into the road safety on the site.

The former petrol station site near Hillend had been earmarked for a hotel until the pandemic hit and the plans were scrapped.

The land, which lies 70 metres north of the A702 junction with Pentland Road and the A703, has not been used as a petrol station for 20 years and in recent times has had car wash services and Christmas tree sellers use it.

Councillor Colin Cassidy, review body member, said he was ‘perturbed’ by the fact a hotel had been given planning permission on the site yet a residential site of nine homes was deemed unacceptable.

He said: “If it was granted permission for a 35-bedroom hotel which could have up to 100 cars a day, I am confused as to why nine small steadings would generate such a problem.”

The review body was told the site had seen several temporary business uses in recent years including selling Christmas trees and car wash facilities on it.

Councillor Dianne Alexander urged councillors to uphold the appeal saying she believed the new hosuing would be better for the site.

She said: “I have reservations about road safety but at the moment there are already cars going in and out because it is being used either as a car wash or to sell Christmas trees.

“I think having a development would both enhance the entrance into Midlothian and make it a lot safer.”

However, fellow body member Councillor Jim Muirhead urged caution against approving the application because the site was “unsightly”.

And he said: “We are not considering a previous planning application we are concerned with this one.”

Mr Muirhead backed planning officers who said the road safety issues needed to be dealt with before plans could be approved.

The review body voted to uphold the appeal by five votes to three.

Review body chairman Councillor Russell Imrie, who voted to refuse the appeal, wished the applicants “good luck” with the next stage of their journey.