A CONTROVERSIAL plan for 1,500 new houses, a primary school and employment land at Craighall, near Musselburgh, has come under fire.

At a meeting of Musselburgh and Inveresk Community Council, member Ruth Currie expressed “grave concerns” about the proposed development, fearing that it would result in Musselburgh joining up with Edinburgh.

She branded that possibility “a dark, sad day”.

Robin Holder, a planning consultant acting for the site owner Persimmon Homes, said: “I don’t want this to sound facetious but Musselburgh’s already joined up with Edinburgh on its maiden road into Edinburgh but, aside from that point, I take what you were saying.”

Representatives from the company and its consultants attended the recent community council meeting to unveil the masterplan for the site, on either side of the A1 near Queen Margaret University, prior to lodging a planning application for the development with East Lothian Council by the end of next month.

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Mrs Currie said: “There are the other developments along the A1 corridor towards Prestonpans which again give me great concern because of traffic. The traffic joining the A1 isn’t just the traffic coming from the Craighall development, it’s the traffic coming from everywhere else up the A1 corridor as part of the Local Plan.”

Mr Holder commented: “There is a view, and this probably is at government level, that actually the A1 is not a significantly busy road compared to other trunk roads around the central belt. It is not for me to defend that view or to tell you what to think about it. We are at a situation where the council have been told by the Scottish Government to accommodate some housing development and that comes with cars. The council, it appears to me, are doing the best they can, particularly by way of the area study and the contributions that they seek from developers, and that’s also involved in the Transport Scotland response for the A1 city bypass, to mitigate the impact of that traffic.”

Mrs Currie commented: “I have had grave concerns for a long time and I think the issues round about the roundabout at the end of the A1 as it leads towards Leith will only increase. I would hate to be working in Edinburgh nowadays because I would be stuck in a car park. I disagree with what you say about transport - it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Alex Sneddon, transport planner acting for Persimmon, said solutions were being identified and highlighted suggested improvements to the junction on Milton Road, Edinburgh, as part of the housing plan for Brunstane.

He explained that a transport assessment would need to be produced for the Craighall application but East Lothian Council has engaged “traffic modellers” for all of the ground to be released for development in East Lothian as well as cross-border traffic impacts.

Stuart Baxter, manager for the Musselburgh Area Partnership, agreed that the existing junctions on the A1 were “beginning to show strain” and new developments would add to the volume of traffic. He said this was likely to result in queuing further back from Asda at The Jewel.

Mr Sneddon explained: “Quite a lot of folk choose to go that way because of the congestion on the Edinburgh city bypass so, in the model, if we fix Sheriffhall you can reduce the queue at Asda. Sheriffhall has got three schemes which have been published, so the key junction in the network now is what they do about fixing Old Craighall because there are plenty of delays at that junction. Two schemes are being looked at and that’s a Transport Scotland junction by the way.”

Mrs Currie asked about secondary education for the children from the new primary school at Craighall.

Councillor Andy Forrest said his understanding was that they would go to the existing Musselburgh Grammar School and the new second high school being built for Musselburgh would accommodate pupils from Wallyford and Pinkie St Peter’s Primaries.

Betty Ramsden, community council vice-chairman, voiced concern about the impact on the grammar school, saying: “I feel the grammar is not going to be able to take so many children - it would have to be improved.”

Mr Holder said there hadn’t been a detailed conversation with the council’s education department as yet but there would be discussions when the planning application was submitted.

He explained that the developer would have to provide financial contributions, entering into a legal agreement with the council.

He added: “We will be dictated to by the council in terms of what they want the school to be and how the two schools will work in unison for the better of Musselburgh. We will fund what requires to be funded.”

Derek Edwardson of the Old Craighall Tenants & Residents Group said: “I moved there 28 years ago and we are going from a semi-rural area to a massive urban conurbation.”

Mr Holder commented: “If it wasn’t Persimmon sitting here, it would be another housebuilder and its coming out of what is considered a national priority to grow. Over the decades and centuries umpteen hamlets have been gobbled up in urban expansions.”

Ellen Watters, another member of the tenants and residents group, added: “My concerns are very similar - you see these wee villages dotted around being swallowed up time after time without much consideration given to the pressures. I am very concerned about the pressures on the environment, pollution, the schools and doctors’ surgeries.”