Letters to the Editor

An invitation

Having seen the piece in this week’s Advertiser ‘Council has shut us down’, here at Gorebridge Community Development Trust we would be delighted to host a nursery group at The Brown Building in Gorebridge, where space is available for social enterprise projects.

Over the last two years, we have invested a lot of money on maintenance to this old Victorian primary school.

This has been mainly found through donations from charitable funding.

The building maintains a lot of its charm and strong Victorian values having served Gorebridge for generations.

Looking to the future, we have raised over £2.5 million towards the cost of building a new community hub to replace the Brown Building in couple years time.

The case for this project is very much not if but when the building construction will start. Tenants who occupy the Brown Building will have a right of passage to the new facility.

I think with the decreasing budget within local authorities, development trusts such as ours here in Gorebridge will need to pick up some of the slack in order to best serve our communities.

David Thomas

Project manager, Gorebridge Development Trust

Conflict of interest

Having read the article on page 6 of the Midlothian Advertiser dated July 7 ‘Late Licence thumbs up’, I wish to make a comment regarding what appears to be a conflict of interest involving one of the main objecting bodies.

I question whether it is appropriate that Mr Pat Kenny, as chairman of the Loanhead & District Community Council, objects to clauses in the application for the sale of alcohol at a soon-to-open restaurant in Clerk Street, Loanhead – whilst he himself owns a licensed premises in Loanhead not too far from the applicant’s premises? Also objecting to activities (quizzes) that his premises on occasion host.

Surely in these days of disclosure he should have declared an interest and stepped back from being having a public opinion on this occasion?

In the long term I do not believe it is wise having a local licensee holding the position of chairman of our community council.

I have no axe to grind with Mr Kenny and have no political affiliations. I would have made the comment against any licensee using such a position of influence – and in my mind using it inappropriately.

Name and address withheld

Fordel Tourist Village

Midlothian councillors have chosen to ignore the advice of the council’s planning officers and have approved in principle plans for a major commercial development on a 10-acre site at Fordel. The application was lodged in the name of Oakridge Property, the development vehicle of Aberdeen entrepreneur Neil Cordiner.

I am aware of the site in question but do not have an intimate knowledge of the area. Indeed, local residents will be far better equipped than I to comment – as indeed they have – on the potential effects on landscape and local businesses.

I do note, however, that planning officials prepared a very thorough report, concluding that the proposals constitute a significant and unjustified departure from key national, regional and local planning policies. Notably, insufficient operational justification has been put forward for development on a greenfield site in the countryside and there are concerns that there could be a significantly adverse effect on existing commercial businesses.

Councillors are within their rights to disagree with the assessment of their planning officers. However, they do have to provide evidence of sufficient weight that a significant departure from the development plan is justified. A failure to do so would constitute a breach of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.

All that has been reported so far (Advertiser, July 7) is the surprising observation by the convener of the planning committee that “When this report landed on my desk I did question whether the planning section of Midlothian Council had actually dragged themselves in to the 21st century.”

Indeed it has, Councillor Imrie. Planning officers have rigorously applied the principles laid out in Scottish Planning Policy (02/2010), the Structure Plan (2004) and the Midlothian Local Plan (2008). It is also clear from their assessment that officers have given careful consideration as to whether significant departures from policy can be justified. Such a justification could not be found.

It is worrying that our councillors are so ready to ride roughshod over policies in the development plan that they accepted and adopted on our behalf after widespread public consultation and considerable expense.

A majority of Midlothian councillors are clearly of the view that the professional opinions of the council’s planning officers are misguided and outdated. I trust that the minutes of the council meeting of July

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