Background to the current Dirleton Planning Applications
And their relationship to the draft Local Development Plan
The starting point of the present planning activity in Dirleton was the local council’s (ELC’s) Main Issues Report for East Lothian, referred to as the MIR and published in the autumn of 2014 . It included a detailed assessment of 7 sites in the Dirleton put forward by landowners or developers as potentially suitable for housing development:-
Land off Castle Park – 4 or 5 housing units
Land to east of Ware Road – 15–20 housing units
Field north of Foreshot Terrace (the Ware Road site) – 21 housing units
Land to south of Castlemains Place (the Castlemains site) – 30–35 housing units
Land to south of Gylers Road – 45–50 housing units
Speedwell Gardens – 2 detached houses
Dirleton Glebe – 10–12 housing units
The Castlemains site was identified as a “preferred new housing opportunity”, and the Ware Road site as a “reasonable alternative site”. None of the other sites were identified as suitable for development. At the time the DVA submitted comments on the MIR, accepting the principle of some limited development but stating that there were divergent views in the village as to which of these two sites should be preferred, with no clear consensus of opinion. But they said that there was concern within the village that any housing development which was approved should be sympathetic to its conservation status and layout and that its architectural style should reflect that status.
The next stage in ELC’s planning review was the publication of the draft of the new LDP, approved by ELC in November 2015 subject to amendments which did not directly affect Dirleton. This allocated the Castlemains site for a residential development of about 30 homes. It did not allocate the Ware Road site for development.
An updated draft of the LDP is likely to be published in June 2016. It will then be subject to further consultation and amendment before it is finalised and the DVA and the community council will have the opportunity to submit further comments on it. The process of finalising the LDP and its being approved by the Scottish government is a complex one and is unlikely to be completed until sometime in 2017.
Certain policies in the LDP and relevant to it are likely to protect rural areas such as ours. In particular the following may be noted:-
1. Countryside Around Towns
This policy provides that new built development within areas designated as Countryside Around Towns (which includes land surrounding Dirleton – see below) will be supported in principle only where:
i) it is required to implement part of the Green Network Strategy (see also below);
ii) it is required for community uses;
iii) it is required for rural business, tourism or leisure related use;
iv) it is essential infrastructure that has a clear operational requirement for that particular location and there is no other suitable site available.
It is further provided that any new development must not harm the landscape setting of the countryside location and that it must be of a scale, size and form that would not harm the objectives for the Countryside Around Towns designation.
It is not clear whether the Green Network Strategy is relevant to Dirleton. This seeks to integrate biodiversity, landscaping, active travel, flood mitigation, open space and climate change adaptation and other relevant interests. It will be made up of green spaces (parks, public spaces, woodland spaces etc) and blue spaces (rivers, streams wetlands etc).
The relevant map in the draft LDP shows an area all around Dirleton as falling within the Countryside Around Towns policy. It is on a very small scale but it appears to include the Ware Road site. It is not clear if it includes the Castlemains site. But that may not be relevant as that site is provisionally earmarked by ELC as a development site.
2. Development in the Coastal Area
This policy provides that proposals for development in the coastal area will be assessed against the relevant qualities of the coastal area in addition to all other relevant LDP policies. Where development is proposed on what is defined as the Constrained Coast it will only be supported if it requires to be directly adjacent to the coast and is in keeping with the character and appearance of the local area. The siting and design of such development must respect the qualities of the particular coastal location.
The relevant map in the draft LDP shows the whole area between the coast and Dirleton as being within this Constrained Area, apparently including the Ware Road site but not the Castlemains site.
3. Housing Land Supply: Interim Planning Guidance
This guidance was published by ELC in February 2016. It is intended to assist them in reaching decisions on applications for planning permission for housing sites in the interim period until the new LDP is finalised. It basically provides that they can allow development which does not comply with the old 2008 LDP, which is still in force, so long as certain conditions are met. It also allows them to give favourable treatment to sites which are designated for development in the draft of the new LDP as it stands at present. It seems to follow from this that in a situation such as we have in Dirleton the planners are likely to favour a site – such as Castlemains – which is designated in the draft LDP over other sites - such as Ware Road – which are not so designated. There is however a possibility that if a developer appeals against a refusal of planning permission which is based on the supplementary guidance, the Scottish government will allow the appeal, and each case which goes to appeal will be decided on its own merits.