Proposals to build a new A701 ‘Relief’ road and double the size of Straiton Retail Park led Green councillor Ian Baxter to move rejection of the proposed plan when it was brought before Midlothian Council on Tuesday 16th December. As his motion could not find a seconder, the plan was approved with minor amendments.
Councillor Baxter also challenged the decision to hold the discussion and decision in private, although this was overruled due to ‘commercial confidentiality’.
At the council meeting, Cllr Baxter said,
“It’s clear from recent Biodiversity and Climate Change reports that the council has neither the tools nor the inclination to objectively consider sustainability in the context of economic development. This worrying situation is confirmed by SEPA in a letter to the council dated 29 August 2013 where it stated that it would have welcomed a wider selection of questions on climate change than those set out and it felt that discussion on climate change issues had not been promoted.
“There are many reports published worldwide which clearly show that building more roads encourages more traffic, so what makes us believe that building the A701 Relief Road will be any different? How will this increase help us achieve the stated Strategic Aim of “responding robustly to the challenges of mitigating climate change”? Even the Environmental Report states “The potential A701 realignment project could impact on CO2 emissions and car travel, but the scale of the impact is uncertain.
“The plan’s Environmental Objectives include protecting and enhancing the countryside, ensuring careful integration of new roadbuilding into the landscape, seeking the reuse of brownfield land over greenfield, especially the Green Belt, and most importantly, directing new development to locations which minimise the need to travel, particularly by private car.
“How will the plan’s Social Objective of securing active and sustainable travel options for existing communities and growth areas be fulfilled by encouraging more private transport, while at the same time encouraging more cross-Midlothian travel to a place whose only adequate existing and planned links will be from Penicuik or Edinburgh? Public transport links from other parts of Midlothian to Straiton are already woeful and will only deteriorate with the additional traffic this development will attract. The proposal also seems blind to what the plan says about Sustainable Place-making.
“We are told that the road needs the development to pay for it, and that the development needs the road. What is needed is a clear plan for modal shift to more sustainable forms of transport, and that isn’t even being considered as an option.
“A Transport Appraisal is being carried out. Would one have been undertaken if Transport Scotland had not requested it? However, we know already that this appraisal will give the thumbs up – it has to; the MLDP contains no alternative to the new road or indeed a sustainable way to address congestion. Prioritising the existing A701 for public transport and cyclists will work for a while, until traffic levels increase once again, and will not address the cross-Midlothian issue, but is and must be seen as merely a sop to give the impression the council is addressing the underlying problem with a sustainable transport policy. It is not.
“In summary therefore, I cannot support the proposed MLDP. It offers little if anything in the way of sustainability. This council has shown it has neither the resources nor commitment to plan for sustainable growth. There is no plan for a county-wide modal shift in transport, contradictions are manifest, recognised but addressed using terms such as ‘mitigating measures will be taken’, ‘these issues will need to be addressed’ and “due consideration will be given to”.
“This is supposed to be a plan for the future but simply offers a 1960s solution to twenty first century problems.