Plans to expand a major housing development in West Lothian have been put on hold amid concerns over whether Armadale’s roads and GPs can cope with the influx of new residents.
Avant Homes wants to increase the number of houses it plans to build at Standhill in the west of the town from 300 to 375.
Planners recommended the increase be accepted, but the council has received 189 objections.
Core to those were the impact on the roads and on already hard-pressed GP provision in the town.
Echoing those objections, independent local councillor Stuart Borrowman called for a two-month delay on a decision.
In a report to the Development Management Committee, planners said: “The council’s Roads and Transportation Service has raised no objections.”
And on the GP issue, they said: “There is no requirement in the Local Development Plan (LDP) to deliver healthcare facilities as part of this development. NHS Lothian was consulted on the proposal but has not responded.”
“Overall, the additional 75 houses proposed will not have an adverse impact on infrastructure”, the report concluded.
There were also concerns from objectors that schools could not meet the demands of the additional homes.
Councillor Borrowman said: “All the briefings local members have had suggest that Armadale Cross is at capacity at certain times of the day. I was mildly surprised to find that an additional 75 houses would have no detrimental effect.”
Roads officer Chris Nicol said that modifying signalling at the cross would be able to accommodate the number of homes planned for the west end of the town.
Councillor Borrowman said: “Adding 75 houses will cause traffic to flow more smoothly through Armadale Cross. Is that what I’m to infer?”
Mr Nicol said that the signals don’t have a large volume of traffic from the west and the signals can accommodate the increase, to which councillor Borrowman replied: “I recommend you drive from Blackridge more frequently.”
He also asked about the lack of response from NHS Lothian, adding: “To what extent is health provision a material consideration?”
Planning officer Wendy McCorriston said it was a material consideration and the council had an action plan for intervention at certain trigger points.
No capacity issues had been identified in Armadale. Ms McCorriston said the last discussion on this was pre-pandemic.
Councillor Borrowman asked: “Just so that I don’t misinterpret what’s being said, discussion between West Lothian Council and NHS Lothian have concluded that there are no significant issues in for example GP provision in Armadale?”
“That was the conclusion at the last discussions in late 2019, but we have not received a response on this request,” replied Mrs McCorriston.
Councillor Borrowman also asked questions on investment in catchment schools such as Eastertoun Primary and the wider ability of Armadale primaries and the academy to absorb extra numbers.
In terms of education, council officers said a phasing condition restricted the number of new homes to 54 a year to accommodate school capacity.
Councillor Borrowman said he was not instinctively hostile to new development in Armadale, “provided facilities and infrastructure keep pace”.
He said behind the lack of social housing, the majority of complaints he received were around the lack of GP provision in the town.
Councillor Willie Boyle agreed on the traffic issues and GP provision, suggesting it was an issue worth greater discussion.
Councillor Borrowman suggested a two-month delay for further information on traffic modelling and a “full appraisal from NHS Lothian on GP provision in the town” before he could agree to the increase.
He added: “All of us have to walk down West Main Street, Armadale, and explain this to people. I have great difficulty working out how to explain the traffic issues and the GP issues.”
The committee agreed.
After the meeting councillor Borrowman said: “I’ll be looking with great interest at the NHS response and the details of the proposed traffic congestion solution when these are reported to members.”
By local democracy reporter Stuart Sommerville