Sunrise at Crichness, near Cranshaws in the foothills of the Lammermuirs, taken by Louise Renton from Duns.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
FEARS OVER A BRICK TOO FAR
The new East Lothian Local Development Plan (circa 2017-22) is not yet finalised.
Councillors, communities and East Lothian Council (ELC) planners have all had opportunities to air their views on future development of the county. There is a preferred, proposed direction for the house building the county must absorb to meet the wishes of the Scottish Government, although the ink is yet to be dried on it. Preferred sites for development have been clearly identified in the process.
Even so, some speculative plans are already coming in from developers that are outwith the new Local Plan.
These include the Gladman proposal for around 100 houses and a cemetery on agricultural land at Newtonlees which has just been submitted. I attended the 2016 exhibition where I raised concerns that the site was outwith the new Local Plan. The suggestion from Gladman staff and their exhibition brochure was that “following the approval of the nearby Robertson Homes development (majority decision of the planning committee, but outside the current Local Plan) building houses here was a logical expansion to a desirable settlement”.
Although it is understood that further cemetery land is needed in Dunbar, there are considerable concerns about a large housing development at Newtonlees being built to enable cemetery expansion.
z The development will swamp the small hamlet of Broxburn. The SESPLAN in preparation clearly speaks against the joining up of communities.
z There is no public transport. This will put additional pressure of cars on Queens Road and Spott Road towards Dunbar. There are already parking issues in Dunbar town centre.
z Going south, there will be additional pressure on the dangerous cements works junction to the A1. Once the Viridor Energy from Waste Plant (granted on appeal by a reporter) is operational, there will be 180,000 tons a year of Clyde Valley waste being brought by lorry and using the junction, as well as Robertson/Avantr Homes residents and other traffic.
z There is already a difficulty of crossing the East Coast railway line from new housing with a need for a very expensive underpass or footbridge.
z Education facilities are already pressured by current building and those preferred developments in the new Local Plan. The grammar school is losing playing field space to classrooms. Dunbar primary is one of the biggest in Scotland. Developer contributions may pay for buildings, but they do not pay for the ongoing costs of extra staff.
z Housing expansion puts pressure on health infrastructure, particularly GPs.
z Some of the site has poor drainage. There have been issues elsewhere with the effectiveness of SUDS ponds as is proposed to deal with this.
z Loss of greenfield agricultural land.
There will be objections to the development.
However, local people are sceptical as to how far local wishes will be heard. They have seen so many local decisions by planners and the planning committee overturned on appeal by Scottish Government-appointed reporters. Some, like Beveridge Row in Belhaven, were decided by a reporter on grounds of non-determination by ELC without any discussion at planning committee.
What is important is that there should be renewed democracy in local planning. There should be a presumption to refuse applications not within the Local Plan. Otherwise, it is meaningless.
Developers may then have a right of appeal and at present the appeal system is loaded towards developers with residents only able to object on a point of law.
Scottish Liberal Democrats, including myself, have expressed concerns about the state of the planning system across the country and have proposed reforms. They include a proposal that reporters should only overturn a local planning committee decision with very good reason to do so as local communities know best what is to their benefit or detriment.
Scottish Government reporters may make a decision, but it is the local community which has to pick up the pieces and live with an error of reporter judgement.
A brick of development in the wrong place is a brick too far.
As a member of East Lothian planning committee from 2007-12, I opposed inappropriate developments. If elected in May, I will continue to do so.
(Liberal Democrat candidate – Dunbar and East Linton ward)
The Berwick branch of the KOSB Association will hold its annual general meeting in the Kings Arms Hotel, Hide Hill, Berwick, at noon on Saturday, February 18.
It must be emphasised that this is the Berwick branch AGM, and not the Regimental Association AGM, which will take place on July 29.
PLEA FOR PATRONS AND SPONSORS
At this time of year your readers are no doubt planning holidays – hopefully, they will also be considering attending various festivals which add to the life of our area.
Following the success of the third annual Berwick Literary Festival, which attracted an increased audience, this year’s event will take place during the weekend of October 20-22. It will involve a mix of local and national speakers who should appeal to a wide range of people. Also, there will be an extensive schools programme and a poetry cafe.
The festival, which is run by volunteers, is now a charity. If you would like to be a patron or a sponsor, please go to www.berwickliteraryfestival.com for contact details.
Berwick Literary Festival steering committee
DANCE GROUP COFFEE MORNING
On behalf of the children and young adults who dance with M-Pulsive Dance in Duns, could I take the opportunity, via your newspaper, to pass on a massive thank-you to all the parents, grandparents, friends, extended family and everyone else who supported our coffee morning at Duns Parish Church Hall on Saturday, January 14.
We raised a staggering £600 – plus there are more donations arriving daily.
We must also thank the mums who baked, the children who worked on the stalls, the ‘kitchen ladies’ and the young adults who served everyone. It was a real team effort.
The monies raised will go towards costumes.
BREAST CANCER RESEARCH CASH
I would like to thank all family and friends for the lovely cards and gifts received on January 8.
Also, many thanks to all who contributed towards the donation for breast cancer research – Breast Cancer Now.
The marvellous sum of £508 was raised.
The latest official statistics on homelessness in Scotland continue to show a downward trend in the number of people being assessed as homeless.
But an increase in the number of households with children living in temporary accommodation – 3,174 at the end of September last year, a 13% increase on the corresponding number a year previously – is a real cause for concern.
Temporary accommodation is not ideal for any household, but can be particularly disruptive for children. These statistics show the need for a continued focus on providing enough good quality, affordable homes with the right type of support in place to ensure that every household in Scotland has a safe secure place to call home.
CIH (Chartered Institute of Housing) Scotland
LEARNING FROM DARK CHAPTERS
The theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday, January 27, is ‘How can life go on?’, raising challenging questions for individuals, communities and nations in the aftermath of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.
At around 6,000 events taking place across the country, people will reflect upon the horrors of the past and remember those who were killed, while honouring all those who survived and went on, with bravery, to rebuild their lives.
Every January, when we listen to the testimony of survivors, we don’t just learn a little more about the darkest chapters of human history, we are also reminded of where hatred and bigotry can lead if left unchallenged and unchecked. Today, that lesson is more important than ever, which is why I urge you to attend an event in your community, listed here www.hmd.org.uk.
You can also play your part by watching the film on howcanlifegoon.hmd.org.uk and sharing it on social media.
Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
ARROGANTLY IGNORING SCOTLAND
As a nation, Scotland hasn’t voted Tory for 60 years and, despite overtaking Labour, still languish at less support than Margaret Thatcher’s low point.
Yet particularly since the Brexit vote, the Tories act as if the people of Scotland overwhelmingly support them and will accept anything the party wants to impose on them.
Before the independence referendum, Ruth Davidson promised us that voting “No means we stay in” the EU.
She and David Cameron signed a pledge saying “power lies with the Scottish people ... to decide how Scotland is governed”. Cameron went further by saying “all the options of devolution are there and are possible” if Scotland voted No.
The Tory rhetoric was clear. Both Theresa May and Davidson said Scotland was an “equal partner” in the UK. Cameron promised “no going back to the way things were”.
But what have they done since winning the 2015 election and the Brexit referendum that puts 80,000 Scottish jobs at risk and will result in lower living standards as the falling pound threatens inflation?
A referendum that they only held because of splits in the Tory party. A Brexit Davidson said was based on “lies”, yet now tells people will be wonderful.
Despite saying a No vote meant power lay with the Scottish people and that we could have all options of devolution, the Tories voted down proposals by 95% of Scotland’s MPs that more powers should be devolved.
David Mundell, Scottish Secretary and sole Conservative MP north of the border, haughtily denies powers those MPs and the elected government of Scotland wish to see devolved.
We hear a Tory Prime Minister who hasn’t even put her plans to a public vote signal she will ignore the compromise the Scottish Government put forward for Brexit.
Meanwhile, Tory Lords say they want to use Brexit to finish what Margaret Thatcher started.
In short, the Tories are acting as if they think the people of Scotland will just meekly accept whatever they impose.
Scotland voted No on the promise that the Tories wouldn’t return to the way things were done in the past and on the basis power lay with the Scottish people. Scotland voted to remain in the EU and the European single market to protect jobs.
The reality under a Tory Westminster government doesn’t come anywhere near that.
It is their arrogant actions that are narrowing the choices for Scotland’s future, meaning the only way we can have an equal partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom is independence.
FEARS FOR LOCAL SERVICES
With the British Red Cross calling the state of the English NHS a “humanitarian crisis” and Tory-run Surrey Council planning to raise council tax by a whopping 15% – just like Tory-run Moray Council threatened 18% last year – it’s clear now what the people of Scotland can expect for their local services if the Tories get to run their local council.
But since Prime Minister Theresa May sounds like she’ll arrogantly ignore a compromise put forward by the Scottish Government to keep us in the European single market to save jobs, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tory council candidates think they can get away with treating voters as fools by pretending they support low taxes and efficient public services.
Their behaviour is a clear case of “actions speak louder than words” – and their actions show they want to treat Scotland like they did in the 1980s with cuts that damage public services and stealth taxes.
Graham C.B. Roberts
NON-REPUBLICAN CLAUSE ACTION
Due to the SNP’s alliance to Sinn Fein, if there is another independence referendum we should ask for an irrevocable non-republican clause to be included to cover our sovereign interests.