Gorebridge planning applicant barred from online decision meeting
The owner of a former Post Office building which has lain empty for two decades has hit out after he was refused the right to attend a meeting to decide its future.
David Klan has appealed to Midlothian Council’s Local Review Body after he was refused planning permission to turn the building into a private residence. But when he asked to attend the virtual meeting of the body this week, where councillors will rule on his appeal, he was told it couldn’t be held in public as it would be “unmanageable”.
In an email to Mr Klan’s agent, planning manager Peter Arnsdorf, said that letting Mr Klan attend would mean allowing all interested parties to join the meetings, which are being held via Microsoft Teams.
He said: “It would then become unmanageable if any party decided to unmute themselves and make comment because they disagreed with the way the debate was unfolding.”
Mr Arsdorf offered to delay the review of Mr Klan’s application; however, a furious Mr Klan said that if the council could not make decisions in public they should not be making them at all.
Mr Klan said: “The council must be seen to be taking these decisions in public. To hide behind Covid rules and say they are not able to manage a virtual public meeting is just not good enough. They must find a way to do it that allows complete transparency or not take decisions until they can take them in public.”
Mr Klan had applied for planning permission to convert the former Post Office on Gorebridge Main Street after it lay unused commercially for 18 years. He had argued that attempts to attract commercial uses for the listed building failed to find any interested parties, particularly as the building did not have a ‘shop window’ frontage.
A spokesperson for Midlothian Council said that the Local Review Body meetings aren’t held in public at the moment because of Covid restrictions. He added: “However, the applicant also chose to make his appeal by written submission so he would not have been able to speak during the meeting in any case, although he could have observed the proceedings. The councillors’ decision on the planning application is final.
"However, if an applicant is unhappy with the proceedings, they can ask for a judicial review or go to the Government ombudsman.”