DELAYS to work to improve access routes into a new town have been approved after councillors ruled it was more important to get new houses on the site.

Hargreaves Services Ltd, which is developing the new Blindwells settlement, near Tranent, had asked East Lothian Council planners to change a condition demanding access roads from the A1 into the new housing were upgraded before any residents moved in.

Instead, it argued that a new study had shown that up to 235 houses could be occupied before any work was needed to improve the major access routes.

Concern about the impact of the new town, which will be accessed off the Bankton interchange on the A1, has been raised repeatedly by concerned members of the local community as the project progresses.

But at a virtual meeting of the council’s planning committee this week, the change to the condition was approved, after elected members ruled that the need to see houses on the ground at the settlement took priority.

Despite some misgivings about the study, which insisted the traffic created by the first 235 homes being occupied would have a minimal impact on current movement, councillors backed the move.

Councillor Kenny McLeod told the committee: “Now is the time to get the foot down on this [project] and get it moving.”

The first residents of Blindwells, which will eventually see an initial population of 1,600, are expected to move in this September.

East Lothian planners initially approved the building of the first phase of houses with a condition which required upgrades to the Bankton interchange, including traffic control signals at the roundabouts and additional upgrades to the slip roads.

However, the amendment will now allow 235 homes to be occupied before any of the upgrade work is carried out.

Councillor Willie Innes, council leader, told the planning committee that Blindwells was “one of the most important developments in our local plan”.

He said: “It is important this site moves forward, it has been so long in the waiting.

“It is also important not to impose conditions on applicants that are onerous and can prevent it going forward.”

Some elected members voiced disappointment that no representative of Hargreaves took part in the virtual meeting; however, it is understood technical difficulties prevented them joining in the discussion.

Councillor Jeremy Findlay cast doubt on the traffic impact study claims that 235 homes would not make a ‘material’ difference.

He said: “I am not an expert in traffic modelling but I do believe there will be queuing problems on the A1 as this development expands.”

The change to conditions to allow the delay to the road upgrade was unanimously approved by the planning committee.