CHILDREN on a new housing estate will have to walk through woodlands to school after neighbouring residents refused to allow a path through their land.

A meeting of East Lothian planning committee was told that 150 new homes would be built at Saltcoats Field in Gullane but a preferred footpath proposed by developers had been denied the go-ahead.

Instead, they are proposing youngsters attending Gullane Primary School walk through neighbouring Millennium Wood.

At a meeting to approve conditions attached to the new housing development, which was given planning permission in principle in 2017, ward councillor Jeremy Findlay called for a delay to the application to allow a new route to be considered.

He told the committee that the application failed to meet local authority standards which demand new housing demonstrates connectivity to the rest of its community.

He said: “In this case, the development fails to meet the standard because the closest access is by a small strip of land owned by residents of Muirfield Grove, who I understand do not want it to be used.

“Access through Millennium Wood means that the path would need to be floodlit. I would not want to send my children through that woods lit or unlit at night and would not want to go there alone as a single person in this day and age.”

During the meeting, an agent for developer Cala said they could only build a footpath to the northern edge of the site where it meets land owned by Muirfield Grove residents.

He said: “Residents of Muirfield Grove have refused to engage with us to allow us to use the site.

“It is up to East Lothian Council to use statutory powers to develop a path.”

However, Mr Findlay asked: “Are we really in the business of enforcing residents to give up the right to their own land?”

Martin White, from Gullane Area Community Council, urged councillors to invite the developer to take another look at the access paths from the hew housing.

He said: “No path that goes by a wood, even if it is lit, is a safe path to school.

“We believe the plans need more work to be done on them; it is not that thorough, it is not ready and it needs to be sent back.”

However, Councillor Lachlan Bruce said he did not believe the path posed a danger to children.

He said: “I do not understand why walking by the wood would be dangerous. I walked through woods to primary school.”

The committee approved the conditions with an added condition which called for the developer to produce details of a footpath link to the south of the strip of land owned by Muirfield Grove residents for approval before building begins.

It also added an additional condition asking for a Construction Method Statement to be submitted prior to work beginning amid concerns about access to the site which is through a narrow C-class road and reports of heavy construction vehicles parking off site.

A third additional condition, addressing the local authority’s recent pledge to take action against a climate emergency, called for a report on actions taken to reduce carbon emissions on the site to be submitted.

Following the meeting, Councillor Findlay, who was the sole member to vote against approving the plans, said: “I  am very disappointed with the decision of the planning committee in approving Cala’s application for detailed planning permission for Saltcoats Field despite the fact that, in my opinion, it falls far short of fulfilling Policy T1 of the Local Development Plan 2018 in terms of connectivity to the rest of the village.

“I am also disappointed that it did not approve of my proposed amendment to delay permission until connectivity issues have been sorted out as, at present, the two proposed pedestrian/cycle routes either go over land owned by Gullane residents who have not given their permission to use or via the much longer route through Millennium Wood which is not a safe route to school or for use in low light or nighttime conditions.

“It seems that, once again, members of the planning committee have ignored the wishes of the local community, the community council and their own planning policy.”