A MAJOR housing development on farmland near Wallyford has received the go-ahead from East Lothian Council’s planning committee, despite the local authority’s own planning officials recommending councillors turn it down.

The planning committee granted East Lothian Developments Ltd planning consent in principle for 600 to 800 houses to the south and east of Wallyford, and at Dolphingstone, following a majority vote at a meeting in Haddington last Wednesday.

This takes the total number of new homes approved for the Wallyford area, including the St Clements Wells site, to about 2,050 – 513 of which will be affordable, including council houses.

Councillors Jeremy Findlay, Tom Trotter, Kenny McLeod and Stuart Currie voted against the plans at the meeting but were defeated.

Planning officials had recommended that the plans be refused as they felt granting planning consent in principle for the development would “undermine the plan-making process”.

They stated that giving the scheme the green light at this stage predetermined decisions about the scale and location of new development that were “central” to the emerging Proposed Local Development Plan.

The plan was based on a compact strategy which focused the majority of the new housing development in the west of the county.

The plan is currently with a Scottish Government Reporter, appointed by the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals, for examination.

Planning convenor Councillor Norman Hampshire later told the Courier that planning officials had recently recommended that two housing sites in Gullane be approved in the wake of 600 objections – both sites were ultimately approved by councillors last month – whereas the Wallyford/Dolphingstone plan had only attracted two.

He said that the Wallyford/Dolphingstone plan had been widely consulted on and was supported by the community.

Mr Hampshire added that following a compact strategy had been agreed as the “best way forward” and was contained in the Strategic Development Plan for Edinburgh and South East Scotland (SESplan).

He added: “I am delighted that we have now completed the proposals for Wallyford and that new primary and secondary schools can been completed on-site.

“It will make Wallyford a fantastic community in which to live in East Lothian.”

Mr Currie, who voted against the plans, said: “I voted for the professional council officers’ recommendation to refuse the application.

“The main reason is that to approve up to 800 houses before the local plan is approved is not only pre-emptive but in my view an undermining of the process.

“What is becoming clear is that a proposed local plan is

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being approved by stealth. We have seen this at Gullane and now Wallyford. My prediction is that application after application will now come forward to avoid scrutiny by the reporter who is charged with considering the overall effect of the proposed plan on our county.”

Musselburgh Conservation Society is urging the Reporter to support cutting the number of houses in the Musselburgh area cut by 1,000.

Spokesman Barry Turner said: “It does seem to be a case once again of the developers being in charge. It must be borne in mind that the Local Development Plan is still subject to examination and has not been finally agreed so we find it puzzling that the council is prematurely accepting proposals that might not be ratified through that examination process.”

Work has been underway at St Clements Wells since 2015 and preparation work on that site including the new distributor road and utility upgrades remains on track for completion by September 2017. Cruden Homes are already on site to deliver the first 44 affordable housing units and further housing will commence this year.

East Lothian Developments Limited said it was working with council to ensure that new Wallyford Primary School can commence on site at the end of July for delivery in the autumn of 2018.

Jim Aitken, from East Lothian Developments Limited, said he had been very pleased at the support provided by the local community for the development.

He confirmed that he would continue to work closely with the community to ensure that the education, transport, environmental and sporting upgrades that are planned were delivered as quickly as possible.

Councillor Colin McGinn said: “I am delighted with the progress we are making with this development. I feel the planning consent is a massive step forward for the community of Wallyford. It will provide us with the opportunity to press ahead with the new Wallyford primary school and proposed new secondary school. I feel this is a fantastic opportunity for growth in our ward.”