THE Scottish Government has been criticised for failing to reach a crucial planning decision before today’s general election, amid claims the delay is linked to the SNP bid in a tightly contested constituency.
Controversial plans to build almost 700 homes at Cammo Fields – in Edinburgh West, which the SNP is hopeful of wrestling from the Liberal Democrats – are in the hands of communities secretary Alex Neil after they were called in five months ago following an appeal by developers.
Despite hopes the move would speed-up a decision over the plans, no ruling has been handed down. Residents have staunchly opposed the plans, which they say will create traffic gridlock and ruin a piece of greenbelt land.
A council vote over its Local Development Plan, which determines where new homes can be built, was delayed until next week so that the government’s decision could be taken into account, but will now go ahead without any clarity over the future of the Cammo site.
Tory councillor Joanna Mowat, who sits on the planning committee, suggested the timing was intended to save the Scottish Government the embarrassment of approving the application before the election.
She said: “One can only suppose that if he was going to refuse this application in line with the wishes of the residents, because of concerns about infrastructure, he’d have done that prior to the election.”
And Labour councillor Cammy Day, the candidate in Edinburgh West, said: “I hope that the Scottish Government aren’t using party politics to its benefit here. It’s disappointing that the developers chose this route to go down. They should have allowed it to go through the democratic planning system within the council.
“But I’m equally disappointed it’s taken so long to reach a decision. I wouldn’t support any development at Cammo until there’s a robust infrastructure for school provision and associated transport provision.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Planning secretary Alex Neil recalled eight appeals for major housing development to take a more active role in monitoring the practical application of the new Scottish Planning Policy, particularly the new presumption in favour of development that contributes to sustainable development.
“Decisions will be made as soon as possible.”