A bid to build a house on part of a gypsy travellers site in East Lothian 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 outskirts of Tranent.
However East Lothian planners rejected the application saying the house would breach its policy against new builds 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 additional housing added to the edge of Tranent and neighbouring village Macmerry since the site opened had now created homes on either side of it.
Councillor Kenny McLeod said 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 house building 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 he had difficulty approving the application.
Councillor Forrest pointed out local policy suggested that 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 that 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.”
Review body chair Councillor Jeremy Findlay 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 had said: “The reason for the application is that it has become evident over recent years that the site is not appropriate or attractive as 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 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 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.
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country