Feature: The Expansion Starts Now
With Taylor Wimpey commencing construction of 458 new dwellings, we look at the development, its impact on the community and how it will usher in the era of new housing in Penicuik.
Taylor Wimpey took the reigns of the Greenlaw Mill site after the merger of George Wimpey and Taylor Woodrow, years after George Wimpey orginally applied for permission to build several hundred homes on the land designated for housing under the Midlothian Local Plan. Their resurrected plans doubled the size of the development and, unsurprisingly, provoked a strong reply from the neighbouring residents in Belwood and Greenlaw Mains One. However after nine months of discussions and negotiations the house builder withdrew their application and downsized by sixty-one properties to 458 houses and flats. Whilst still disputed, this application opened up more of the land which residents have come to know and love, and increased a boundary between the existing and new properties. The planning body at Midlothian Council liked the application, even though they always would, and planning was granted in February of this year, subject to the signing of a section 75 legal agreement. Now we’re six months on, almost to the date, and Taylor Wimpey are in the process of ‘securing the site’. As the lush land turns to dirt, it is hard to see what will be but don’t get us wrong, this isn’t a housing development to extend the existing, this a new community.
In five years time, 458 dwellings will stand tall on the former mining site. A legacy of Penicuik’s mining past is promised throughout however new residents will be hoping that evidence of any mine workings will be long gone. An expanse area of grassed land will sweep throughout the heart of the site, splitting the community in two. Beyond this, utopia style ‘driving free’ zones will link houses to the land, past symmetrical rows of residences, facades rough with the original stone of the area. Flying through the remainder of ‘Greenlaw Mill’, we will pass a crèche and a convenience store, the regular bus will drift past before heading out the bus gate onto Belwood Road. Screams of joy will be heard from the play park, which adorns a prominent site upon the entrance to the community, the burn flowing past undeterred. Zooming out we no longer see a lush habitat of wildlife and shrubbery but a bustling hive of new life.
But this is now and Wimpey have marked their territory. A day after we confirmed they would arrive ‘imminently’, Taylor Wimpey’s sub-contractor was onsite clearing a trench behind existing properties on Boyd Orr Drive. On Monday 19 the fencing went up and it was known that the works were commencing. However residents were left dumb-founded at the lack of notice; many suggested that Wimpey did not actually have permissions to carry out the works; Midlothian Council quashed this stating that the final permission had been granted with the signing of the legal agreement. This was revealed in a leaked email from the council to concerned residents:
You should be aware that the legal agreement has been finalised and the package of pre development conditions is being prepared for delivery to the case officer.
They continued to state that the works were permitted because of the signing of this agreement:
Under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland ) Legislation the developer is permitted to carry out certain temporary works on a site when there is a planning permission for development so although the fencing was commenced a few days ago [,] the development was minded for approval and the legal agreement [,] having been signed [,] enables release of the permission.
Although, theses ‘temporary works’ only cover certain alterations and it is possible that Wimpey are in breach of the legislation. Mr Ryan Barker, Assistant Design and Planning Executive for Taylor Wimpey, told Midlothian Council, and in turn residents that a single JCB was onsite:
We travelled over to the Penicuik development today to see what was going on and can confirm at present we do have a JCB on site to assist in the securing of the development only.As you are aware there are area’s overgrown on site that are more difficult to get too and the JCB is creating a suitable temporary platform to allow the securing of the Herras fencing that is being erected for health and safety reasons which is priority for TW.
The section seventy-five legal agreement not only decides the developer’s contributions to the local economy but also the number of council owned dwellings situated within the site along with the compulsory updates to infrastructure that Wimpey will fund. Starting with the local infrastructure, Wimpey will need to contribute to the creation of a new roundabout connecting Mauricewood Road and the A702. At the other end of Mauricewood Road, signalisation of the busy T-Junction will also need to be carried out. The transport assessors told the council that there would be little impact on Penicuik’s roads and therefore we do not expect there to be any further contributions to the local infrastructure. On to schooling and a major shake up will be required. Primary school wise this means a two classroom extension to Mauricewood Primary however according to a submitted document, TW will pay (Sandra Banks, MC Education, speaking):
With regards to primary education, a contribution equivalent to an extension of 2 classrooms and for ancillary accommodation at Mauricewood Primary School would be required.
The much disputed secondary schooling will be affected greatly. Beeslack CHS will not be the school of choice for the new development. Of the houses being built, 324 of the houses’ teenage children will go to Penicuik High School under plans for a Catchment Zone review. The remaining 134 houses’ children will go to Beeslack but as Beeslack is already operating at full capacity, an extension will be required. Wimpey will also have to pay for this:
With regards to secondary school education the applicant will be required to contribute towards the consequential cost of any additional secondary school accommodation as part of the Section 75 legal planning agreement.
As previously mentioned, a ‘commercial zone’ is planned. It will be subject to a separate planning application, which is yet to be submitted, and may not be submitted until it is required half way through the development. It will be the centre of the development with five units, one of which will be a creche and another a convenience store. The developer may be hiding behind this to avoid a major contribution to Penicuik’s economy, however a contribution is still likely and will be welcomed considering that the new local plan states that we’re going to have to build at least one new retail store. Artwork relevant to the site’s past will stand proud in the ‘commercial zone’ if it comes to fruition.
Relive the development of the Greenlaw Mill story at the top of the post in our timeline. Interact to view all our articles since the plans were lodged in 2012.