A group of Penicuik residents opposed to plans to demolish the former Wellington School building have questioned the council’s planning process.
The Wellington Action Group (WAG) has asked Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning to consider whether an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required for the proposed housing development at the former Wellington School.
This comes following Midlothian Council last month stating that one is not necessary for the plans, which are currently at the pre-application stage.
Strutt and Parker on behalf of Lochay Homes Ltd contacted Midlothian Council in September to ask for an opinion as to whether an EIA was needed and submitted a report outlining why they thought one was not necessary.
However, WAG, made up of local residents, wrote to Midlothian Council’s planning department detailing why under current legislation they consider an EIA should be required. Under Town and Country Planning Regulations Scottish Ministers can exercise powers by calling in any proposed application for their own determination.
Jane Tallents, spokesperson for WAG said: “We are of course disappointed about Midlothian Council’s decision. We consider that the proposed development does have significant environmental impacts and are asking the Scottish Ministers to have a look at this.
“The Town and Country Planning Regulations 2017 state that ‘if the site exceeds an area of 0.5 hectares, then an EIA screening should be undertaken’. As the site is 4.7 hectares it clearly falls under this legislation. Furthermore, the regulations say that the basic question to be asked is: ‘Would this particular development be likely to have significant effects on the environment?’
“We suggested that a new 52 house estate in the middle of the countryside could not fail to do that.
“Although our submission was uploaded to the council’s planning portal they have not replied to us and we feel that both the views of local residents and the planning regulations are being completely ignored. Coupled with the lack of any response or even acknowledgment from our elected representatives this makes us question whether there is any democracy in the planning process.”
A council spokesman said: “We have been contacted by the developer seeking our opinion on whether development at this site would require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
“While there are potential environmental impacts arising from the proposal, their intensity, complexity and probability are not considered such that it constitutes an EIA development as defined by the regulations. Our response was issued within 21 days in line with the relevant regulations.”