Hotel tree felling at Hillend ‘horrifies’ locals

Midlothian Councillor Ian Baxter, Damhead community councillor Julian Holbrook, Allanah Betney and Roseanne Holbrook protest at the hotel plans

Midlothian Councillor Ian Baxter, Damhead community councillor Julian Holbrook, Allanah Betney and Roseanne Holbrook protest at the hotel plans

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Midlothian’s only Green councillor has made a formal request to the Scottish Government to call in controvesial plans for a hotel.

Residents in the nearby rural community of Damhead are “horrified” that two-thirds of mature woodland in the area could be felled for the development at Hillend.

Last week Midlothian Council’s planning committee voted in favour to grant planning permission in principle for the demolition of Calderstones on Biggar Road to make way for a three-storey, 150-bed hotel and three new houses, with car parking and a new access road.

Councillor Ian Baxter (Green), supported by councillor Andrew Coventry (SNP), voted against the proposal.

The development site is within the Pentland Hills Regional Park and in an area designated as an Area of Great Landscape Value.

Afterwards Councillor Baxter said: “I am not against hotel development as such, but this site is very sensitive, being in an elevated position, containing a large number of mature trees and located within the Regional Park itself.

“There are two sites close by which already have planning permission for hotels, in far less sensitive areas, but which have not been progressed for several years. If there is the demand for a hotel at Hillend as some say, why have those plots remained undeveloped?”

Damhead and District Community Council chairman Mrs Constance Newbould said locals were “absolutely horrified” at the decision to grant.

“There are thousands of trees and two-thirds are going to have to go and whilst we appreciate the developer will plant (replacement) trees, these are mature trees which have taken years to grow. I think it is disgraceful,” she added.

In addition to objections from Damhead, Fairmilehead Community Council and the Friends of the Pentlands also opposed the hotel plans submitted by Mr and Mrs Omar Almubarak.

Mrs Newbould continued: “No-one seems to take any notice of anyone’s wishes. It is planning for the sake of planning.”

In his report to the planning committee, Ian Johnson, head of communities and economy, argued that policy supported hotel developments at key gateway locations, such as Hillend.

He added that the developer would be expected to contribute towards the upgrade of the nearby Midlothian Ski and Snowboard Centre.