Former Gorebridge post office home appeal granted

A bid to turn a former Post Office into a private home after it lay empty for 18 years has been granted on appeal after councillors were warned against “playing God”.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 10:21 am
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 10:24 am
Midlothian South councillor Jim Muirhead (Labour) spoke during the appeal.

David Klan’s plans for the property, on Gorebridge Main Street, were previously rejected by planning officers, who ruled it breached their policy against commercial premises being turned into housing.

However, a meeting of the council’s Local Review Body overturned the decision on appeal this week, after one councillor warned they would be “playing God” if they tried to refuse it.

Councillor Colin Casssidy (SNP) said that forcing the owner of the Gorebridge building to retain it as a commercial business was a step too far.

He said: “I do feel that the marketplace has changed substantially in the past year and I feel we are playing God here if we try and force the owner of the shop to open a commercial business.”

The review body was split over the appeal, with Councillor Jim Muirhead (Lab) arguing that allowing the former Post Office to be converted into housing would take away a local viable commercial property.

Mr Klan had said in a written submission that attempts to find anyone to keep it as a business had failed; however, Mr Muirhead pointed to last year’s lockdown as a factor.

And he said: “If we want local businesses to establish in our communities, there has to be premises available.”

Councillor Russell Imrie (Lab), chairing the review body, also argued that taking the decision during the coronavirus pandemic could lead to regret later.

He said: “We could be giving something away we regret.”

Councillor Peter Smaill (Con) supported the call for the appeal to be upheld and planning permission granted for the building to be converted into a home, pointing to a photograph of the building which was shown to members.

He said: “A picture says a thousand works. This is not a shopfront window and there are double yellow lines in front of it.”

The Midlothian Council review body voted by five members to four to uphold the appeal and grant permission with conditions for the former Post Office in Gorebridge.