Sainsbury’s claims Midlothian Council officer ‘doctored’ plans

Supermarket giants Sainsbury’s last week accused a council officer of “doctoring” plans for an extension to its site in a row over a fence.

Midlothian Council Debating chamber at Midlothian House, Buccleuch St in Dalkeith 19/2/18

The supermarket chain installed the fence as part of a new extension to their store at Straiton Retail Park, last year.

But their request to have a condition which called for trees or other planting to hide the fence removed from the planning permission was refused by Midlothian Council.

At a meeting of the local authority’s Local Review Body agents for the supermarket claimed a council officer had “doctored” their plans by drawing a green line, which outlined where the planting would be required, on their plans. The council insisted it was not uncommon for a planning officer to edit a drawing, insisting they had not done anything wrong.

In a statement urging the body to overturn the council’s decision, Sainsbury’s said the condition relating to landscaping was made without any consultation with them and referred to “a green line” on approved drawings.

Their agent said: “There is no green line on the approved plan.”

Before adding: “There is on the council’s online system a ‘doctored’ version of the plan, albeit not marked as approved. This plan was altered by the officer, without permission of the architect or applicant and appears as if it was included as an application drawing, which it was not.

“It is our position that this is not acceptable. In our view it is not within the gift of the local planning authority to alter plans without permission or to impose changes to the design – at least without discussing it with the applicant first.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “It is quite common for a planning officer to edit a drawing such as this as part of a planning assessment, to illustrate requirements to an applicant.

“It was not altered or ‘doctored’ with any other intent.”

Members of the local review body visited the new extension, introduced to handle online orders from the store.

They said the area which was supposed to be planted was now covered with Tarmac and questioned whether the supermarket should be required to dig it up to meet the condition.

Councillor Jim Muirhead said the fence made the area look “unfinished”.

He said: “I am surprised Sainsbury’s have allowed it to be left like that, it is not a great image for the shop and looks unfinished.”

He suggested planning officers speak to Sainsbury’s about other ways to “soften” the look by using raised beds, planters or painting it.

Councillor Peter Smail described the fence as “an eyesore”.

Councillors agreed to reject Sainsbury’s appeal to have the condition removed.