Midlothian Council: Soutra Mains bus stop questionable

The Coffee Shop on the A68, at the bottom of Soutra.
The Coffee Shop on the A68, at the bottom of Soutra.

Demands for two new bus stops to be built next to a new rural retail unit  on the A68 have been described as “questionable”.

Midlothian Council imposed the condition on developers who want to create the units at Soutra Mains Farm, Pathhead, when they gave planning consent against their own officers’ advice last year.

However planning agents for the farm site are now asking for the condition to be removed pointing out they do not own the land where the stops would be placed and claiming the current hail and ride system in the area works well.

The retail plans were passed by councillors after they agreed  to ask for developer contributions for the bus stops.

The plans had previously been turned down by Midlothian Council’s planning committee, its Local Review Body, and then the Scottish Government on appeal.

Council officers warned the proposal went against the adopted Local Development Plan by allowing new retail units in “out of town” sites.

Soutra Mains Farm already has a cafe on-site and plans to convert a disused barn to retail units which would allow local farmers to sell their products.

The plans received overwhelming support from local residents and 262 customers at the cafe signed a petition calling for them to be approved.

At a planning meeting last February councillors voted by 10 members to six to approve the retail plans.

Now agents for the developers have lodged an application to have the bus stop requirements removed.

They said: “The relevance of the condition to planning is questionable.

“If bus stops were to be provided on either side of A68 at this location then a number of issues required to be addressed.

“Firstly land ownership and secondly is there a need for bus stops or should the existing ‘hail and ride; system continue as it does from Lauder to Pathhead.

“We are far from convinced that a suitable safe design can be achieved for formal bus stops in this location on the A68.”

The current condition prevents work on the retail site beginning until the bus stops are provided.

An application to have it removed is now with planning officers.