DEVELOPERS have been accused of "cramming in" houses at the expense of the environment after applying to change the layout of part of a new housing estate.

Mactaggart and Mickel applied to East Lothian Council to "remix" plans for the second phase of housing it is building at Letham Mains, Haddington.

However, the revised plans increased the number of private houses from 40 to 43 and, it was claimed, reduced promised new trees from 66 to just four.

The developers, who are not the only company building homes on the Letham Mains site, said that the change came from customer demand in a ‘post-pandemic’ world.

However, the council received 18 objections and three representations, with the main objection relating to a new road layout which reduced exits from the site from two to one, leading to warnings that all traffic would use a single road.

And there were concerns about changes being made to developments after people had bought neighbouring properties.

Despite the concerns, the planning committee approved the changes by six votes to four at a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

Bruce Hampton, from Mactaggart and Mickel Homes, told the committee: “The main reason for our change is a direct response to our customer feedback.

“Our customers are increasingly demanding extra space in their homes due to the new post-pandemic working arrangements.

“We are finding more regularly that young couples and families are often looking for additional workspace in their homes; the new normal which appears to be here to stay.”

However, local resident William Fus said that when he bought his home looking onto the site where the new houses would be built, it was on previous plans which promised tree-lined roads.

He told the committee that he paid £1,000 extra to have a house with a side window based on the open spaces outlined in the previous plans for the site.

And he said residents were worried that the single access would lead to all traffic using Kerr Loan, a residential street, creating a huge increase in traffic and raising safety concerns.

Councillor Craig Hoy, ward member, said that the revised plan would make Kerr Loan “effectively a spine road” which it was not supposed to be and he said that the council needed to act to protect people living in the estate.

He said: “There is a broader issue here with developers effectively changing the plans and changing the living environment of people after they have bought homes.

“I think that is something we should try and guard against through the planning process.”

Councillor Sue Kempson added her concern at the changes and the impact on the environment.

She said: “It seems to me that Mactaggart and Mickel like to cram the houses in very, very tightly, with very little regard to green space and trees, and I think the original proposal seemed a very good plan.

“For the sake of three extra houses, I cannot understand why this new proposal is before us.”

However, Councillor Norman Hampshire, council leader and planning committee convenor, said that the previous plans should not make a difference to their decision.

He said: “Whether we liked one or the second is irrelevant, the application before us is for this layout and, if it meets our planning policies, it is one we have to support.

“I don’t think there is enough strong planning grounds to reject this application.”

Following the decision to approve the changes, Mr Hoy, who is not a member of the committee, said: “I am disappointed that members of the planning committee decided to accept changes to the road layout accessing the next phase of the Letham Mains development.

“This will undoubtedly cause more traffic on Kerr Loan and this is rightly a concern to local residents.”