Row over grass-roofed house could see planning policy 'challenged'

Applicants say a council directive to bar homes being built without enabling rural business is 'flawed'.

Row over East Lothian grass-roofed house could see planning policy ‘challenged’ LDRS

A row over plans to build a ‘grass-roofed’ house next to a listed building is set to see a council policy against new housing being built in the countryside challenged.

East Lothian planners refused to grant planning permission for the four-bedroom home proposed for land next to North Berwick’s Drinking Water Tank, just outside the town in an agricultural field.

Officers said council policy which presumed against new homes unless they were enabling a rural business meant the house could not go ahead.

However representatives for the applicant have described the policy as “flawed” and they have launched an appeal against the decision which they say goes against national guidance issued to all councils over a decade ago.

Applicant Tom Tait had argued that the site of the new house was just 180 metres from the town’s boundary, and would be on a corner of an agricultural field which had become unusable because large farming machinery could not access it.

The new home, at The Heugh, North Berwick, would have had a roof covered with green sedum – a type of plant which grows out in a mat shape.

Agents acting on behalf of Mr Tait argued that 14 houses had already been built next to the site which they claimed was infill between the homes and the Category-B listed water tank.

However planning officers ruled that despite the green plans for the roof of the house, it would “set an undesirable precedent for the development of new houses within East Lothian’s countryside”.

Sixteen objections to the plans for the new house were lodged, with concerns about the loss of prime agricultural land, impact on wildlife and the views at the site and claims it would ‘dwarf the existing pair of houses to its east”.

North Berwick Community Council objected over the visual impact of the house on the area.

They said: “While the grass roof makes an attempt to minimise the visual impact of the proposed house it still clearly sticks out above the ground harmfully altering the iconic skyline of North Berwick.”

In a statement of appeal which will go before the council’s Local Review Body in December, agents for Mr Tait argue the council ignores national guidance which allows for “small-scale infill developments” in rural areas.

And they say East Lothian Council is the only local authority in the south east of Scotland region that applies the enabling restriction which ties any new housing’s occupants to a business.

They say: “National planning policy and guidance is clear that new homes in the countryside can be supported in instances where there is no operational requirement.

“National guidance is also clear that occupancy restrictions on new homes should be avoided.

“The council’s approach to new housing development in the countryside is therefore flawed.”

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