Plan for new homes on farmland gets green light despite objections

Hallam Land applied for planning permission in principle to build 90 homes in East Calder.

Plan for new homes on Hoghill Farm in West Lothian gets green light despite objections LDRS

The Scottish Government has given the green light to a plan which will see 90 new homes built on farmland, despite local objections.

West Lothian Council’s Planning Committee threw out the proposal  by Hallam Land Management to develop 20 acres at Hoghill Farm, at Oakbank Road,  East Calder,  in December 2021.

But the Reporter appointed by Holyrood’s Division of Planning and Environmental Appeals backed the Hallam application for outline planning permission .

Villagers in East Calder as well as the local Community Council had objected to the plans which sought outline  permission to develop the farmland on the edge of East Calder.

Open fields on Oakbank Road East Calder. (LDRS)

Hallam Land argued that  West Lothian Council had not set aside enough land for the demand for housing development and argued it was meeting demand where it was most needed. It described the development as a “ natural extension” of East Calder.

However local councillors – Conservative group leader Damian Doran-Timson and the SNP’s Carl John –  claim the plan would put even more pressure on infrastructure.

When the plan was rejected by the council, Councillor Doran-Timson said: “The infrastructure around East Calder is grinding to a halt.”

Councillor John pointed to the huge development at  Calderwood on the eastern edge of East Calder. He added: “Out of 3,000 houses planned for the area only 1,000 have been built and traffic on the A71 is nose to tail as it is. The A71 is a major problem that the council, the Scottish Government, someone, has to sort this out.”

Bathgate’s SNP councillor Willie Boyle was critical of the answers Hallam representatives gave to his questions about the  housing plan. He said the responses he had had to questions about the type of housing which would be built were “not good enough”.

Agents for Hallam had said the development  would be undertaken by  housebuilders rather than  Hallam Land Management. He described  the application as about  “getting planning permission and then getting someone else to take it on.” 

He added: “It’s purely speculative.”

In a written submission to the Reporter considering the appeal by Hallam Land Management, Mike Shiel, West Lothian council  branded the planning application as unjustified.

Principal planner Gillian Cyphus wrote: “The proposal is unjustified, unnecessary development in the countryside,  which would result in the loss of prime agricultural land.”

In issuing his decision however, Mr Shiel said: “I concluded that, notwithstanding some areas of conflict with the adopted West Lothian Local Development Plan 2018 (WLLDP), the proposed development, taken overall, complied with that plan.” 

Mr Shiel said conditions should be attached to any development including demanding  a contribution to improve infrastructure.