MAJOR junction improvements on the A1 at Queen Margaret University (QMU) have been given the green light amid plans for 1,500 new homes near Musselburgh.

The work, due to start in April next year, has generally been welcomed but there are fears that traffic from the development will clog up Musselburgh’s road network.

The QMU/A1 junction improvements, approved by East Lothian Council planners under delegated powers, follow two planning applications from Persimmon Homes for more than 116 hectares of land surrounding the university, at Craighall, already getting the go-ahead.

Detailed planning permission for 473 new homes was approved for part of the site north of the A1 at Monktonhall.

It is anticipated that the majority of the remaining 1,027 homes will be built south of the A1.

There are also plans to build a new primary school south of the A1 for the future Craighall community, where there will also be three full-size sports pitches and new ‘cycle superhighways’ created using a railway line which runs under the dual carriageway.

The masterplan for the land, which stretches from Stoneybank and Newcraighall in the north down past the village of Old Craighall, shows about 55 hectares of the land south of the A1 set aside for housing and the school, with a further 20 hectares for employment.

North of the A1, more than 40 hectares have been earmarked for housing and an innovation park supporting research work at the university.

Land has also been set aside for the possible expansion of Musselburgh Railway Station in future.

A planning report stated that junction completion works, put forward by East Lothian Council, would involve the construction of new slip-roads to the A1 northbound carriageway which would meet in a roundabout, providing arms to the development areas and a link road to the existing junction at QMU.

The existing junction A1 southbound slip-roads would be retained and enhanced with extended auxiliary lanes to ease traffic movement. The existing junction in front of QMU would also be modified from a give-way ghost island T-junction to a signalised junction with greater capacity to hold turning traffic.

The proposed scheme would, through the provision of an underpass beneath the A1 and slip roads to the northbound carriageway of the A1, enable traffic movement from QMU and the new development to access the A1 northbound directly.

Street lighting is proposed to be installed/extended to include the new section of Queen Margaret Drive which would be provided under the A1 to the proposed roundabout junction. Street lighting would also be provided on the new slip roads.

The proposals also include foot and cycle paths, two SUDS ponds, mitigation planting of native woodland to the main junction, structure tree planting, marginal planting to the proposed SUDS areas, and more ornamental planting to the areas near the QMU campus.

Colin Beattie, Musselburgh MSP, said: “While I welcome improvements to the road system which will accommodate the exciting new business developments around QMU, I am less enthusiastic about the huge expansion of housing, albeit much-needed, adjacent to QMU.

“They will substantially increase the traffic on that stretch of road. Hopefully the improvements will manage that well.

“I continue to have concerns about developments being put in place with inadequate attention to overall infrastructure needs and the impact on surrounding residents.”

Barry Turner, spokesman for Musselburgh Conservation Society, added: “Though we do not want this amount of housing in this location, we hope that the improved junction will channel much of the traffic generated onto the A1 and away from Musselburgh.

“There are already serious traffic problems at the bottom end of Monktonhall Road and at the Tesco roundabout. Even if just some of the traffic from the development around QMU comes this way to access facilities in Musselburgh, we fear the road system will clog up totally.

“We have no problem with the junction improvements. Our issue is with the amount of housing proposed, which is totally inappropriate.”

Councillor John Williamson added: “The planned developments will technically be part of Musselburgh, although the vast majority of the new housing will be on the western side of the A1 with the only direct access to Musselburgh itself, as far as I’m aware, restricted to public transport and cycle/pedestrian access.

“The only full vehicle access will be via Newcraighall or Old Craighall Roundabout, which means that it will be difficult for the new communities to feel an integral part of Musselburgh.”

A spokesperson for QMU said: “We welcome news of the approval of planning permission for the A1/QMU road junction which will help unlock the full potential of the site for the development of the Innovation Park.

“QMU chose to move to East Lothian partly because of the opportunities to work with employers to develop the land immediately adjacent to the new campus.

“The decision is the latest in a series of important milestones that have brought us a step closer to progressing plans for sustainable economic development.”