Shop plans kicked out by casting vote

Barns beside the Soutra Coffee House near Pathhead where plans to open a shop have been rejected by the casting vote of the planning committee chairman.
Barns beside the Soutra Coffee House near Pathhead where plans to open a shop have been rejected by the casting vote of the planning committee chairman.

Plans to build a shop unit at a Midlothian beauty spot were rejected at last week’s council planning meeting by the chairman’s casting vote.

Half of the planning committee accepted panning permission in principle for the erection of a retail unit next to Soutra Coffee House at Soutra Mains Farm, Pathhead, before chairman Councillor Russell Imrie (Lab) used his casting vote to reject the plans.

Labour councillor John Hackett called in the application which officers had recommended for refusal. He argued that it be accepted as “what else could the site be used for?” And he claimed it wouldn’t affect town centre shops.

Cllr Peter Smail (Con) called the plans “a huge positive for Midlothian”, adding “the barn is a bit of an eyesore so this would an improvement”. Cllr Colin Cassidy (SNP) agreed stating the application would “benefit the area and bring money into the community”.

However, council leader Derek Milligan (Lab) spoke of the issue raised by officers of cars entering and leaving the site safely via the A68, adding: “The planning guidelines are set and it is incumbent on us that everyone plays by the same rules.”

He said that granting permission would “set a very dangerous precedence”.

While he recognised this “exciting business idea” Cllr Jim Muirhead said “none of us are traffic experts, I would rather relay on what is being advised by traffic experts”.

Cllr Imrie questioned voting against the recently adopted local plan which doesn’t include retail for the site, before using his casting vote to reject the application following a six each tie.