Cockenzie House Development

So the controversial revived plans to build a care home in the grounds of Cockenzie House have slipped through, with the casting vote in favour by one Norman Hampshire, not terribly well known for espousing traditional labour views. Not surprisingly, with strong objections from the community and authorities like Historic Scotland, many will be dismayed by the inability of the committee to reflect its constituents views.

You’d think there’d be plenty of places in around the locality to plonk a 60-bed home in the workaday cheap 80s style, as developers today are want. First you identify a site which is in a sensitive area, currently under multiple occupancy and clearly having some useful community and wider benefits. Then you put forward a daft plan, cobbled together by a draughtsman or architectural technician, presumably as proper architects are too expensive. You then surreptitiously submit the plans in the summer recess when everyone is on their hols.

Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council had lodged objections to the planning application, arguing that there would be detrimental effects on both the community activities of the house and the surrounding residents. They were worried about traffic impacts, among other things. The community had put in objections too, quite a number judging by the number of comments made online, but I wonder whether such numbers ever count?

But we should be worried about the poor quality of this proposal, architecturally speaking, which I doubt will actually go ahead in the shape and form that has been submitted. Functionally it doesn’t look like the site can support a building as massive as the proposed. But these massive ugly structures are popping up everywhere, take for example the Dundas Estates carbuncle behind the Bleachingfield on the Edinburgh Road, whose idea was it to build so many homes and plant just a single tree? Whether or not the care home is a trojan horse for some other development further down the line, I don’t know, but this site is hopelessly flawed for the current proposal and they’ll struggle to find anyone to take it on, unless they cut every corner in the book and piss everyone off to boot.

The bitter political spats of the past look like they may well be repeated as this proposal looks as murky and broken as the one that preceded it, which at the time was narrowly rejected.

There were strong planning arguments to reject this one too, not least the objection from Historic Scotland, but there is a pattern of members of the planning committee ignoring the advice of officers, or applying it selectively or seeking out a technical fix / get out of jail card.1

It seems that any old jobs will do in poorer communities. No doubt there is a local requirement for poorly paid zero hours contract work? But where is the impartial analysis and weighing up of the benefits and disbenefits. Seems to me that the result is cooked up in a smoke filled room, or whatever the modern equivalent is.

I await to see if Scottish Ministers call it in. And roll-on the next cooncil elections when this bunch are surely going to be obliterated. And finally, spare a thought for the Tynepark guys that were previously squatting in the grounds of behind St Mary’s, Haddington had finally found a new home. Looks to me like mental health is a low priority for this administration.

  1. Not that the officers always get it right themselves, sometimes they are a hindrance to ostensibly good proposals or ones that have little or no impact, but reject in principle.

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passionate about the new and the old, but only if it is any good