A LONG-DELAYED greyhound stadium in Wallyford has taken a major step forward, after East Lothian Council approved plans to build nearly 100 “high-end” houses to fund the project.

The 94 homes to the south-east of the stadium, the majority of which will be four and five-bedroom detached properties, have been described as an “enabling development” specifically put forward to raise the finance for the stadium, which was first put forward by businessman Howard Wallace back in August 2001.

East Lothian Council’s planning committee unanimously approved the houses at a meeting in Haddington on Tuesday, with local ward councillors calling for work to now push ahead on the stadium, which is known as Victory Lane Stadium, and demanding “bricks are put in the ground”.

The plans also include building a 293-space car park for the stadium.

The original plan for the greyhound stadium at Barbachlaw Farm, off Salters Road, was approved by the council in early 2005 as part of a new development area, which was to include business and industry, as well as housing.

However, the council included a condition that work had to start on the steel structure of the stadium before any housing could be built.

Development of the stadium stalled after the steel stand frame was put up – with a major housing development subsequently built north-east of the site – and developers said they needed to build more housing to finance the leisure project.

In April 2010, an application to build 94 houses on land originally identified for business use and for a stadium car park was rejected by local planners but an appeal to the Scottish Government saw that decision overturned.

This week, Mr Wallace and his firm Sirius Sport & Leisure Limited saw the plans for 94 houses and the car park at the site gain final approval from councillors.

Concerns that none of the houses planned were affordable were raised; however, Iain McFarlane, the council’s head of planning, said the reason the houses were all “high-end” was because they were designed to raise the finance for the stadium and without them the project would not be viable.

Councillor Stuart Currie, Musselburgh East ward member, described the stadium as East Lothian’s Angel of the North, saying people in Wallyford had waited long enough for the project to be taken forward.

He said: “There has been quite a lot of development around Wallyford on the back of this greyhound stadium coming.

“I do not know if it is a viable business or not, but that is not my concern. The only way that dog track is going to be built is if these houses are built.

“It seems to me there is no reason to refuse it. The public want to see something, the community supported it on the basis of employment, and it will bring that to this community.”

And fellow ward councillor John Caldwell described the 94 houses as a “drop in the ocean” compared to the number of houses planned for Wallyford and the surrounding communities.

He said: “Let’s get some houses up and get bricks in the ground for the stadium. The longer that stadium stalls, the interest in greyhound racing is deteriorating as it has been already.

“The community has waited a long time to see something happen here.”

The committee approved the housing and car park unanimously.

Bob Salter from Geddes Consulting, which has worked on the project for Mr Wallace, said the decision was a “fairly major step”.

He added: “It has been a long journey. There are some matters of infrastructure to resolve but the ducks are all lined up now.

“Mr Wallace is delighted and it is particularly pleasing that it was a unanimous decision.”