Land For Sale News : Green belt land




THE controversial cutting of a new stretch of the A701 through greenbelt land at Straiton has been give the go-ahead in the face of massive opposition.     Furious opponents say only a handful of Midlothian councillors turned up to "debate" the issue - with only one member from the area concerned. Now they are having to pin their hopes on First Minister Donald Dewar blocking the GBP 20 million development.     Protesters have branded the regulatory services committee's debate on the road -which they say took less than three minutes - "a disgraceful whitewash".     Critics had already dubbed the 2.8-mile dual carriageway, scheduled to run between the city bypass and Milton Bridge, near Penicuik, a "Trojan Horse".    

They claim the road, which will skirt Ikea's new flagship Lothian store, will spark a flood of new applications from developers eager to build on what is now designated greenbelt land.    

A report by Midlothian Council's director of community services shows more than 700 objections were lodged with the authority and the Scottish Office - with only three people backing the plans. But after councillors backed the proposals at yesterday's meeting, the plans will now be sent to First Minister Donald Dewar. He will decide whether the GBP 20m road will go ahead immediately or whether there will be a public inquiry.     It is understood several local landowners have already been approached about the sale of land over which the road would run. However, if approval is given by the Scottish Executive, compulsory purchase orders will be issued.     Joan Higginson, of campaign group No Alignment Action Group, said today the meeting of councillors only just made the legally required quorum.    

"There should be about 18 members on that committee," she said. "Why did the rest not turn up for such an important local matter? Was it because they had already decided?"     According to Mrs Higginson, it took less than three minutes to deal with a "two-inch thick document." "It was stage managed, a total disgrace," she said.     "We will be lobbying MSPs and local people - this must not be allowed to go ahead."     She added: "If need be we will personally write to Donald Dewar.    

There have to be questions asked about why Midlothian Council want this road to be built on greenbelt land.

The council claims the upgrade will give major businesses better access to the road network. The "new" A701 will feed key sites such as the scientific research and development complex at the Bush, the Pentland Science Park, the Roslin Institute and Bilston Glen Industrial Estate.     Because the road is being planned by Midlothian Council itself, the Scottish Executive will scrutinise its plans in detail before giving the final go -ahead.     The dual carriageway will be funded by the Private Finance Initiative.     In a prepared statement, the council said the upgrade was required to "support and encourage" economic development in an area it believed had suffered from the loss of traditional industries, particularly mining.     It said the proposals were the "best option" to improve road safety in the area and promote alternative travel options, including better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorists.     Adam Montgomery, deputy leader of Midlothian Council, said today: "Midlothian Council's situation is a combination of rural and urban settlements and we must find our own transport solutions to best serve our communities."     He added: "We only need to look to the experiences within the Borders where lack of transport infrastructure has created serious problems for industries located there and acts as a disincentive for inward investment."     Colin Howden, campaign manager of pressure group TRANSform Scotland, said today: "Midlothian Council has yet to convince anyone that the proposal is anything more than an encouragement to speculative developers to build more out-of-town shopping centres and car commuter suburbs for Edinburgh."    

A spokesperson for the council confirmed eight councillors from the 18-person committee had attended the meeting, adding: "The legal minimum for the meeting is six councillors."

Jim Stanton


House plans cut over south west; BUILDING HOPE: objections to greenbelt schemes

GREEN campaigners Friends of the Earth have welcomed a fall in the number of proposed new houses for the south west.

    But leaked figures show that the former county of Avon will actually see a 10,000 increase under draft regional planning guidance.

    Under the revised figures the area could see 373,000 houses by 2016 as opposed to the 438,000 originally planned.

    Wiltshire could see its allocation go down by the largest amount --18,000.

    But the former Avon area may be the only one to see an actual increase, to 69,000 by 2016.

    The rise in house-building numbers is linked with the area's increased prosperity and rise in population.

    It has caused concern because of the pressure it will put on greenbelt land.

    Residents in Keynsham have raised objections to ribbon development between the town and Bristol.

    Planners have been urged to consider brown field sites for the majority of new building instead of the green belt on the outskirts of places such as Bath.

    Although the overall projected fall was welcomed by Friends of the Earth, it said that mass migration into the area was fuelling the housing boom and that should be curtailed.

    South west FoE spokeswoman Jean Saunders said: "The news will be a boost for the numerous campaigners who have been fighting edge-of-town housing estates that generate more traffic.

    "However, we anticipate that the House Builders' Federation will be lobbying hard to get the draft figures bumped up again and we cannot be complacent about the outcome of the plans."

    And she said that the pressure on greenbelt land would still be there.

    "Developers will jump at the opportunity to target greenbelt land rather than be forced to look at the derelict sites that offer the best potential to create the urban renaissance that we hear so much about."

Phil Chamberlain

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