What now for the greenbelt and for greenbelt communities?

What now for the greenbelt and for greenbelt communities? How will Midlothian be effected by this ongoing expansion of housing and associated infrastructure in Edinburgh and this continuing nibbling away of the greenbelt?

Will the thousands of empty homes and commercial premises across the city ever be developed? Will the existing acres of brownfield sites and land banked by developers ever be brought into sustainable use? When will we actually start building sustainable livable homes that are affordable, accessible and connected to good quality local services, transport and greenspace?

What is the value of all LDPs and their housing targets, including Midlothian’s  post-Brexit?  There’s a question!  Perhaps a time fro a rapid reassessment?

At present, I’m not sure that there’s a satisfactory answer to any of these questions? Or indeed any sign that the voice or concerns of local communities on either side of the greenbelt will be heard any time soon by either local or central government.

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We voted to stay, and that’s what we’re going to do

Well if independence is put to the test again, nobody will be able to claim that the status quo is even an option; to remain in the UK would be to leap together into an uncertain future outside the family of European nations.

I was immensely reassured this week to see thousands of people gather together outside Holyrood – and I know this has been happening elsewhere too – to say boldly that we are not resigned to that fate. Europe is part of our history, our culture and our identity. We voted to stay, and that’s what we’re going to do.


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More of our greenspace is disappearing

Ian Baxter, Midlothian Green Councillor writes about his concerns that a hotel has been given planning approval in the Pentland Hills Special Landscape Area.

At Tuesday’s Planning committee meeting of Midlothian Council, the contentious item was supposed to be the proposal for two small wind turbines at Springfield Farm near Leadburn (voted down, in the main by SNP councillors, despite my pleas for Midlothian to step up to the plate on our – and the SNP government’s – carbon reduction targets).

However, it was an application for a hotel in the Pentland Hills Regional Park which troubled me more. Within the boundary of Hillend Country Park and in an area designated as an Area of Great Landscape Value, the site is also in the Pentland Hills Special Landscape Area in the proposed MLDP, “assessed as being of high value in terms of scenic quality, enjoyment and naturalness”. The site includes a large number of mature trees and shrubs.





Moving the goal posts on community energy


Midlothian Green Party members interested in promoting local opportunities for community owned renewables will be dismayed by recent reductions in support available for the UK Government.

Community energy schemes will be hit hardest by Amber Rudd’s recent energy subsidy shake-up, ministers from Scotland and Wales have warned.

Scotland Energy Minister Fergus Ewing and Wales Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant have co-authored an open letter to Rudd urging her to consider new ways to support community schemes.

The two ministers were particularly critical of Rudd’s move to stop the Renewables Obligation subsidy for new onshore wind projects from 1 April 2016, and her plan to scrap pre-accreditation for the Feed-in Tariff scheme which supports projects below 5MW.
Pre-accreditation essentially gives renewable energy generators a guaranteed tariff level in advance of commissioning their installation.


Local Plan risks Midlothian turning into an extension of suburban Edinburgh

Midlothian Greens have condemned the Proposed Midlothian Local Development Plan (MLDP) as totally lacking in sustainability, and risking turning Midlothian into a suburb of Edinburgh.

The MLDP was approved by councillors on 16th December 2014 and is described by Midlothian Council as representing the council’s settled view as to what the final adopted content of the plan should be. The statutory period for representation/expression of opinion runs from 14th May to 26th June and comments can be submitted on the Council’s web site during that period.

At the meeting on 16th December, Midlothian’s Green councillor Ian Baxter voted against approval on the basis that it did not offer a sustainable future. The response now published and submitted by Midlothian Green Party to the consultation spells out in detail why we believe this to be the case.

Our submission can be downloaded from our Publications page, or here

Co-convener of Midlothian Greens, Malcolm Spaven said, The council’s proposals run the risk of turning Midlothian into little more than an extension of suburban Edinburgh, with more roads, more cars and more commuting. Our vision is to work with the council and local communities to develop a sustainable Midlothian with comprehensive transport solutions linking cohesive communities while protecting our green spaces and farm land and creating jobs that will last.”

Greens oppose ‘unsustainable’ Midlothian Local Development Plan over A701

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.

Council decision ignores the needs of a growing community

Midlothian Council’s decision not to accept the Bonnyrigg Centre Trust’s bid for the former Leisure Centre has been described as ignoring the needs of the local community by Green councillor Ian Baxter.

At a full meeting of Midlothian Council on 24th June, the council has agreed instead to look into the feasibility of letting some or all of the building to Bright Sparks, a local charity for children with disabilities.

Councillor Baxter said, “Whilst I am delighted that Bright Sparks has the prospect of moving to bigger and better premises, I am disappointed that the very many local organisations who worked together as part of the Bonnyrigg Centre Trust’s bid have been ignored by the council. The building is very big and could accommodate everyone. My proposal was for the Bonnyrigg Centre Trust to work with Midlothian Council to ensure that Bright Sparks and the Bonnyrigg and Sherwood Development Trust could also share the building as that seemed to me to be the best solution for everybody”.

He added, “I fear that there is now a real prospect that most of the building will be demolished”.

Council is not listening to the Community, says Green Councillor

Bonnyrigg Green Councillor Ian Baxter has criticised Midlothian Council’s obsession with demolition as the only solution for the former Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre, as a new proposal to demolish most of the site has emerged which appears to be gaining support amongst some councillors.

Councillor Baxter said, “Of the three formal bids submitted for the building, only the Bonnyrigg Centre Trust appears to me to offer the Bonnyrigg community the full range of facilities it so desperately needs. I have been amazed at the number of people backing the Trust’s bid from right across the community, and I’m greatly impressed at the professionalism and effort which has gone into its Business Plan. However, I’m deeply disappointed that at every turn it seems Midlothian Council has put obstacles in the way of a community buyout. Council officials have refused to work with the Trust through fear of being seen as in some way as partisan and have recommended demolition. SNP councillors are adopting a zero risk approach, blind to the long term benefits to the council and are ignoring the very people who put them into power. I am convinced that Labour councillors are actively working against the Trust by pitching community groups against each other in some kind of turf war. People need to wake up to what’s going on and demand that the council and their councillors start working for them and not for vested interests”.

Referring to the proposal by Bright Sparks to let the back hall from the council and allow demolition of the rest of the building, Councillor Baxter said, “Whilst I very much support the tremendous work Bright Sparks does, demolishing most of the building would be a betrayal of the community’s expectations. I suggested to Bright Sparks that they should be part of the community bid but they have refused. I have previously asked other bidders to be part of a single community bid, and they refused too. Why? Who is telling people that a collaborative approach would not work?”

He added. “Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre has now been lying empty for a year. If the council, local councillors and all community groups had worked together on this from the start, we would have a thriving community hub up and running by now”.