'Lies before jobs' claim after failed business expansion bid in Gorebridge

A plumbing boss has accused Midlothian planners of putting ‘lies before jobs’ after they refused permission for his business to expand on rat-infested land.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 10:58 am
Updated Friday, 22nd October 2021, 11:34 am
The proposed site on land north of 6 Ashbank, Gorebridge.

Rory Joyce bought the vacant land north of 6 Ashbank, Gorebridge, which has been home to numerous unofficial businesses for decades, so his local family business could expand.

But when he took action to tackle a rat problem caused by a neighbouring fly-tipping area, he was ordered to apply for a change of use to the land.

Now, despite being on the land for more than 10 months, he faces having to move out after planners refused permission for the change.

Mr Joyce described the decision by planners as “unbelievable” and has vowed to appeal.

And he accused the council of putting allegations from two objectors ahead of the jobs of his team which has expanded thanks to the new site.

He said: “They have put lies before jobs. It is an unbelievable decision.”

Applying for the change of use Mr Joyce said he followed advice from the council’s own environmental health team to tackle the rat problem on the site by lifting the top soil on the grass land, using it to create a barrier with the neighbouring land, and replacing it with a hard surface.

He was then ordered to apply for a change of use for the site from vacant land to a builders yard by planners who ruled he had turned a grass field that was in keeping with the rural surroundings into an “unattractive area of hard standing with the character of a semi-derelict industrial site” and refused permission.

Planners acknowledged that the field had been “the subject of various unauthorised uses over the last 20 to 30 years” and was flanked by at least two industrial yards “not ordinarily found in rural locations”.

And they recognised the neighbouring field, which was a former greyhound kennels, has become a fly-tipping site.

However they pointed to objections from two neighbours who complained about disruption as the business moved into the site, removing the soil and transporting shipping containers onto the land.

One objector said part of a fence in the field where she kept animals had been removed leading to her donkey escaping, while another said overhead wires into their home were pulled down by lorries going on to the site more than once.

Refusing permission for the change of use planners said: “The activities and actions of the applicant at the application site over the last 10 months or so have undoubtedly caused significant disruption to the amenity of local businesses and landowners.”

They added: “Whilst the planning authority acknowledges that it can be difficult for expanding businesses to find suitable sites that does not create justification for businesses to willfully ignore planning regulations and re-locate to a conveniently sited field.”

Mr Joyce, whose business Peter Joyce and Son was started by his father in Midlothian over 20 years ago, said he moved onto the site after repeatedly requests to the local authority for help finding a suitable place to expand failed.

He said: “We repeatedly asked the council for help finding a suitable site to expand without success and when this land became available it seemed the solution.

“We now employ 10 local people and are using the workshop on the site to train our team in green heating systems which supports the council’s climate policy.

“The decision by planners is unbelievable. I have written to the council’s chief executive to express my disappointment at the decision and will be appealing against it.”

The council said the application was refused because “the proposed development is not in keeping with the scale and character of the surrounding rural area and is poorly integrated into the rural landscape; the proposal is therefore contrary to policy RD1 of the Midlothian Local Development Plan 2017.

“Any economic benefits generated by the proposal are not a significant enough material consideration to outweigh the provisions of the development plan.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​