Midlothian North MSP Colin Beattie has raised locals’ concerns on the transparency of some transactions which the council has made regarding housing developments.
The ‘Save Kippielaw’ campaign from Easthouses and ‘CLAIM’ (Chapel Lawns Action in Midlothian) group from Roslin are evaluating the evidence which they have to determine how to take concerns forward that the council may not have been completely open with the communities.
Midlothian Council has denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Beattie (SNP) said: “The information coming to light about Chapel Lawns and Kippielaw is extremely worrying. The council seem to be blatantly ignoring any objections made and are resolutely continuing with their own plans despite obvious community concerns.
“I have been in regular talks with both groups and it is disheartening to see their correspondence ignored by the council and to witness a lack of engagement from the council’s political leadership.
“I have been attending meetings with both groups and they have outlined their concerns to me, yet the council appear uninterested in even listening to them.
“Residents from Chapel Lawns and Kippielaw are facing developments that will affect the quality of their day to day lives, and yet the council seem unwilling to listen to their worries or to consider supporting them in their time of need – it really is outrageous and undemocratic.
“We need to have a process in place that is open and honest, not one which is secretive and so open to criticism.
“Regardless of whether these allegations represent the full picture, the information in the hands of both groups reveals a worrying culture of evasion and lack of public engagement.
“This cannot be acceptable. I call on Midlothian Council to engage fully and honestly with the public and to explain clearly what is happening and what is proposed. Most importantly I ask the council to listen to the public – if only as a matter of simple courtesy.
“The council will be judged harshly if it does not. I would remind this council that the outcome of the Best Value Review 2019 carried out by Audit Scotland on behalf of the Accounts Commission, was scathing in its assessment of many aspects of its work.”
Dr Sandra Sharp, chairwoman of CLAIM, said: “We are extremely upset and angry with Midlothian Council who not only changed the goal posts but more significantly, changed the rules of the game along the way.
“They were the only ones to benefit from hatching a plan to link a housing site in the currently adopted Local Development Plan with a future school site not even planned for yet. Our planning objections were ignored by the council throughout the process and all attempts to engage with our local councillors were shut down by them.
No matter what the level of opposition, there was only going to be one outcome.
“As new residents to the area, we have had our eyes opened to the way in which Midlothian Council works which is far from fair and transparent.
“We feel utterly let down by officials and councillors and have lost all faith in their ability or willingness to adopt a more collaborative approach of working with communities, rather than against them.”
Stephen Liddell from the Save Kippielaw group, said: “We understand that the council has identified several alternative sites for a new Dalkeith primary school but they have chosen Kippielaw because the secret deal with the developer to acquire land for the school will generate millions of pounds in developer contributions from the 500 new houses which the developer wants to build at Kippielaw destroying 50 acres of adjacent countryside and resulting in the coalescence of the communities of Dalkeith, Easthouses and Newbattle.
“There has been no community consultation on the choice of site and no account has been taken of the 250 extra primary school pupils generated by the proposed new houses making the school capacity problem even worse.”
A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “We have attempted to be fair and transparent with both groups. As we stated categorically previously, the council has not ‘secretly’ sold land for a road crossing a core path to Edinburgh University in an exchange deal for land for a new school site at Roslin.
“As for Kippielaw, although the council is in discussion with the landowner with a view of purchasing land as a potential site for a school at Kippielaw it is not subject to a deal or understanding regarding support for 500 houses. The land is not allocated for development and there is no planning policy support for housing.
“We are happy to meet with both groups again to reiterate our position.”