Below is a sample of the responses received (to the 5th of November) via the online Survey Monkey questionnaire. This gives you a taste of the high quality contributions that have already been provided, and we are very grateful for these. You can read the full Extract on Capturing Rural Voice for the East Lothian Local Plan here.
**If you’ve not yet completed the online questionnaire, it would be much appreciated if you could spare a few minutes to complete it.** If you don’t have time, please email Francis Ogilvy with your views and they will be added to the contributions.
You can also read our earlier article with the background to this exercise, Chalmers & Co encourages debate on rural development in East Lothian.
Q1. Renewable Energy:
At a recent Chalmers & Co Question Time, a show of hands suggested renewable energy for electricity and heat has its place in the countryside, but as part of a mix including wind, solar and biomass (woodchip). Where would you draw limits and what would you encourage? For instance, should any restrictions be placed on the height or numbers of wind turbines in a farm setting?
I believe that there is a great potential for renewable energy in East lothian but it must be appropriate to our lovely surroundings. Thus biomass and solar should lead the field with a subtle matrix of wind turbines in support. What I am really saying is that 1,2 or 3 small turbines cleverly linked in to a farm steading makes good sense. Sticking up large turbines on low ground almost inevitably intrudes and damages site lines and spoils our countryside.
I would like to see: More District Heating systems – quite possible in local communities I would not like to see: More turbines in beauty spots – there are plenty of ugly spots to where they can be located negative impact on tourism should not be underestimated.
Q2. Housing and Communities:
Current proposals promote large, new settlements or extensions to existing main towns rather than adding to existing rural communities.
Do you support this? If not how much would you allow existing settlements to grow over 10 years? Should this be measured as a percentage of an existing settlement size? If so – by how much?
We do not go about planning developments (new or extension) in the right way here in UK/Scotland and the quality of build, layout and facilities is depressing when compared to what is done on the Continent. Developers build the cheapest, poorest-designed, ugliest housing they can get away with. Cheap materials, boilers, windows, etc. are used and rooms are miniscule and unfit for humans to live comfortably and happily..…
I believe that community is best served by adding to existing communities rather than promoting large new settlements. I would be happy to see 10-25% growth of existing communities.
Q3. What are the essential ingredients for vibrant rural communities? Can you supply examples?
Balance of people is the most important. Professional, retired, indigenous population, public housing breeds a sense of belonging and a pride in the community. Shops, a pub, church, village hall provide focus points. Gifford, Pencaitland.
Good transport links 2. Good local employment opportunities (not just commuting to larger centres) 3. Good local schools 4. Community Assets 5. Good local retail outlets 6. Good communication links (broadband etc).
Though East Lothian still has considerable reserves of coal, rock sand and gravel, currently mineral working is restricted to four sites overall across the county.
Would you like to see mineral extraction develop and should more licences be granted? Why, or why not?
If mineral extraction would provide work for local people and thus contribute to the East Lothian economy this would be good. However, the ecology, landscape and traditions of East Lothian are very valuable assets and it is essential that they are preserved. More mining licences should only be granted for low quality, non-agricultural land which is not near to scenic sites, SSSI’s, housing or historical areas. The planning authorities will also have to get expert advice on how extraction would affect the flow and water quality of waterways and how removal of materials from the sites would affect small rural roads.
Q5. Should alternative uses following extraction or development be regarded as justification for consent (eg water park after sand & gravel extraction)?
Provided the alternative uses meet a genuine requirement/satisfy a genuine demand then I fully support this.
The joined up thinking for alternative income and job creation would be great but very challenging. I think this may be tied in more to future housing and their needs.
East Lothian has the potential for significant tourism spend; golf has played a strong lead along the coast in particular, but there is less tourism inland.
Do you believe tourism is worth promoting in rural areas and if so, how should this be balanced against other enterprises?
Tourism is worth promoting, but the livelihoods of the local population should be prioritised (some of course earn income from tourism). It should be balanced. How many farm shops, holiday cottages, etc. can be viable… do we promote other types of business, and include, e.g. live-work housing (with good broadband).
Q7. If large scale infrastructure investment is needed, what would be your priorities? Would they include, for instance, an extension of the rail links, or super fast broadband.
Rail or light-rail links and broadband are very important, along with well-designed roads, paths, bike lanes (segregated), park & ride, well-located and designed schools, shops, community centres, etc.
Super fast broadband is the obvious one and, for East Lothian, I would open up East Linton Station and run more services to Dunbar on the same basis as the service North Berwick gets.
Q8. Should we follow examples of Scandinavian countries where second homes are commonplace in the countryside with the resulting resulting economic benefits?
If you can afford a second home or a holiday house perhaps! I am aware of plenty of seaside or in-forest ‘hytte’ in places like Denmark and Sweden, which are in families for generations (look at plenty of editions of the Grand Designs magazine for examples). Are there places in Scotland that can be similarly used. Would they be used enough. Are there appropriate incentives/ taxes/ designated plots for their development without pushing out local population. Some holiday cottage redevelopments (e.g. on farms and estates) could be offered as reasonably-priced blank/empty/ derelict plots/buildings for sole or mixed-use holiday home/local population self-build.
The Scandinavian example suits scandinavia. I think it is a bad option in East Lothian and will compound the problems of access to homes in rural communities.
Q9. General Comments:
Are there any other key planning issues which you would like to raise?
I would dearly like to see (as is beginning to happen in England) the release of fair-priced (Council or Government-subsidised if necessary) self-build plots rather than mediocre developer-built mass housing, along the lines of some Continental models noted above. These plots should be a mixture of brownfield and greenfield (some people – like me – prefer to live in town or in a friendly community closer to a larger town/city; others like to live on their own large, rural plot away from others).
Substantially more support for low cost rural housing and let properties. A more consistent, humane and flexible planning system. More flexibility and common sense in Building control.
We expect to hold a workshop, probably in the afternoon of Wednesday 28th November to draw this engagement exercise to some conclusion. If you would like to participate in this, please call (01620 824000) or email Francis Ogilvy. It will be facilitated by Nick Wright and Richard Heggie who successfully engaged a broad cross-section of Haddingtonians to contribute to creating a vision for their town. Here we are invited to come forward with a vision for our county and we hope you will take part with us.
You can read the full Extract on Capturing the Rural Voice for the East Lothian Local Plan here.