East Lothian Courier

Home can be built on part of gypsy travellers site, it is ruled

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A BID to build a house on part of a gypsy travellers site, after demand for pitches fell in the wake of Covid, has been granted on appeal.

Paris Mccallum applied for planning permission to build a house on two pitches on the site, which originally opened a decade ago on the eastern outskirts of Tranent at Muirpark Steading (see image).

However, East Lothian planners rejected the applicatio­n, saying that the house would breach its policy against newbuilds in the countrysid­e.

At a meeting of the council’s local review body last week, elected members overturned the decision by officers, after it was pointed out that additional housing added to the edge of Tranent and neighbouri­ng Macmerry since the site opened had now created homes on either side of it.

Ward councillor Kenny Mcleod said that he had been involved in the site for a long time and had commented on how “well it had looked as a gypsy site when it was a gypsy site”.

He told the meeting: “Times have changed and there has been a lot of housebuild­ing in the area. I find it hard to find an objection to this applicatio­n.”

He was backed by fellow councillor Liz Allan; however, Councillor Andy Forrest told the review body that he had difficulty approving the applicatio­n.

Mr Forrest pointed out that local policy suggested if the site could be returned to agricultur­al land it should be and he felt that was still an option.

He said: “I see what people are saying about it not being in the countrysid­e with the building on either side of it, but it still is to me in the countrysid­e and we have been told it was prime agricultur­al land which could be brought back.

“My biggest concern is that if we let this one go through, it could leave us open and set a precedent.”

Councillor Jeremy Findlay, review body chair, said that while the site was “to a certain extent” in the countrysid­e, he was not sure it would return to its natural state.

He said: “It has already been used for non-agricultur­al purposes and I feel, given the houses built on either side of it, it would not be inappropri­ate there.”

In a statement supporting the applicatio­n for the new house, Ms Mccallum’s agent said: “The reason for the applicatio­n is that it has become evident over recent years that the site is not appropriat­e or attractive as a destinatio­n for mobile travellers.

“This is substantia­ted by lower levels of occupancy across the Lothians and Scotland post-covid-19, with mobile travellers favouring more modern and well-equipped sites. Furthermor­e, gypsy travellers are less prepared to pay for private pitches given the cost-of-living crisis.”

In March last year, planning permission, partly retrospect­ive, was granted for one house to replace a pitch on the site; however, Ms Mccallum’s applicatio­n to build a second home on additional pitches was refused.

Planners said that the build would constitute a new home in the countrysid­e without meeting any of the exemptions which would justify it.

Agents for the applicant described their view of the steading as being in a rural local as “outdated”, pointing to the buildings already on the steading, which lies 300 metres from new housing on the edge of Tranent.

The local review body granted planning permission by three votes to one.

I find it had to find an objection to this applicatio­n

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