Martin Kelly: Plan for Brunstane Farm is misguided and illegal

MORE than 200 residents recently attended a public meeting in Brunstane – and over 700 signed a petition – to protest against the 11th-hour inclusion of Brunstane Farm in the draft Local Development Plan (LDP).

The City Council proposes to allow 1330 houses to be built on the last piece of greenbelt that keeps Newcraighall village and Musselburgh distinct from Edinburgh. On any measure, this is the most unsuitable development proposal in the LDP by far.

What are the objections? Firstly, Brunstane Farm is owned by the council’s development subsidiary (EDI) which stands to profit. The chairman of EDI (Cllr Frank Ross) also sits on the planning committee – which, on May 14, will decide whether or not to adopt the LDP.

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The council estimates traffic on key local routes would increase by almost 60 per cent – more than double the projected impact for any other site. And EDI’s plans to provide road access to the site are so deeply flawed that a local resident instructed consultants to write to the council detailing the fundamental errors.

The proposal would also harm biodiversity (Scottish Badgers is investigating a recent sighting); would seriously damage the setting of historic Brunstane House (and nearby Newhailes); and would require a road to be built over the John Muir Way. It would also undermine efforts to redevelop brownfield sites in Craigmillar.

For all these reasons (and more) the council’s proposal is a very bad idea. Adopting the proposal would also be illegal. Planning acts require the LDP to be consistent with the South-East Scotland plan (SESPlan) in which Brunstane Farm is clearly designated as greenbelt. This follows the SESPlan-commissioned “Edinburgh Greenbelt Study” which concluded in 2008 that Brunstane Farmland, “plays a key role in maintaining separation between Edinburgh and Musselburgh and, as a result, there is no landscape capacity for development”.

Also, Brunstane Farm borders East Lothian – and development would, if anything, be worse for Newcraighall and Musselburgh than for Edinburgh. So re-zoning is not a decision that the council could properly take unilaterally. Indeed, the SESPlan exists so that decisions affecting multiple councils are taken collectively. And this decision has already been taken at regional level: the SESPlan clearly indicates that Brunstane Farm must remain as greenbelt. So if the council approves Brunstane Farm for development it would be breaking the law.

We’re prepared to go to the Court of Session to ensure the council acts lawfully. We recognise the urgent need for housing in Edinburgh – indeed, 600 new homes are already being built at Newcraighall – but there are other, far more suitable, developments sites that would not involve tarmacing over Brunstane Farm, or breaking the law.

Martin Kelly is a member of the Brunstane Residents Group.