A PLAN for 200 new houses in fields at Whitecraig was unveiled to the public last Thursday.

Planning consultants from Edinburgh-based Geddes Consulting were in the village to outline the project to local residents at a consultation event at the Mercat Grill.

About 30 people from Whitecraig, Wallyford, Inveresk and Musselburgh attended to find out more about the plan, which has been put forward by Wallace Land Investments in Edinburgh. They were also given feedback forms to fill in at the event, which took place from 3pm to 8pm.

Steven Cooper of Geddes Consulting said that 25 per cent of the new houses would be affordable and construction of the new development could start in late 2017 or early 2018 if consent was granted.

He said the site, off Cowpits Road, was currently being used for agriculture and horses. It was part of East Lothian’s Strategic Development Area and a preferred site for future development.

The company has submitted a Proposal of Application Notice with East Lothian Council and hopes to submit a planning application in principle for the development in late summer.

Access to the new housing would be from Whitecraig Road and Cowpits Road. There would be planting “to define a strong landscape edge” to the site and village. There would be open space with a play area and connection to the Core Paths Network.

Appropriate financial contributions would be made for infrastructure improvements, including primary and secondary schools if required.

The development would support up to 190 direct and indirect jobs annually over the five-year development period.

Mr Cooper said: “The exhibition was very useful in raising local issues and gaining feedback about the principle of the proposal. There was a good level of support for the principle of a new housing development in Whitecraig. Some of the issues raised included the cumulative impact of more traffic on the road network, capacity at local schools and the impact on cultural heritage designations.”

He said Wallace Land Investments had requested an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Screening Opinion from the council to determine whether EIA was required.

Prior to the finalisation of the proposal and submission of an application for planning permission in principle, a suite of technical assessments would be carried out.

Ian Irving, a member of Inveresk Village Society, was one of the first to arrive to express concern about the proximity of the site to the historic Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, fought between the Scots and English.

He later told the Courier: “I was concerned that they were going to go ahead with the housing before doing a survey. I was told that they would be taking the appropriate action for a site like that. The battle site was massive and included the Scots camp. I am concerned there could be artefacts there.

“I also came because the new development would be so close to Inveresk and the amount of building that is going on the area.”

Morag Reeves, another Inveresk resident, said: “I am interested in footpaths as I am an East Lothian footpath warden. I was quite pleased because one of the things they are going to do is to put a path from the cycle track at the railway through the new housing which will come out halfway down Cowpits Road. The path is mainly through a green area which will improve the situation for cyclists who have to go through the village just now to get on to the riverbank. People come from Dalkeith, so you will have a longer area to cycle without being on the roads. Once you get on to the riverbank you can cycle all the way into Edinburgh.”

Emma Hay, a mum-of-two from Wallyford, said: “I am a town planner and dropped in because I was curious about where they were building the houses. I see the logic of the site. We have moved out from the city and love it out here, so get why this is such a great location for young families. It has to be handled well. The details of the design are really important, how it integrates into the village and to make sure it is not this weird little enclave that is developed.”

Ella Shearer from Whitecraig, who overlooks the proposed new housing, said: “I just wanted to see the plans. I am all right with the plan. It is not near enough to bother me in any way. I am a bit concerned about buses and different accesses. I wonder if there are going to be more shops coming into the village and schools being extended. We are needing housing and I suppose 25 per cent is not a bad total for affordable housing.”

A woman from Musselburgh, who did not want to be named, attended because she was worried about the large amount of new development in the area.

She said: “What is planned at Wallyford is massive and it is just moving in. The development at Whitecraig is on a green belt area. All the bits are joining up really. It is just a general feeling that East Lothian is putting all its development in this corner because it is near the city and has a park and ride. But it is a heck of a lot.”

Eve Dickinson, who used to own a B&B in Musselburgh but now lives at Inveresk, was concerned over house building in a green belt area. She added: “I am also concerned about provision of schooling as the council has not made a decision on where it is building the extra secondary school provision. I can’t understand why they are not using the old Tesco site in Musselburgh as it is adjacent to the present school which is at capacity. My biggest concern is the traffic in Musselburgh which they have never managed to resolve.”