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Government Overturns Scotmid’s Takeaway Refusal

It was once a bustling butcher’s but now, vacant and neglected, Penicuik is about to lose a retail unit and gain a hot food takeaway, at the hands of the Scottish Government.

After months of arguments between Midlothian Council, the unit’s owners, Scotmid, various local business owners and the Scottish Government, the decision has been made to grant Change of Use of 24 High Street to allow it to operate as a hot food takeaway.

Yesterday, Tuesday 27 May, Holyrood authorised an appeal overturning Midlothian Council’s refusal to convert 24 High Street from class one retail to class three hot food. The refusal, based on Penicuik’s over provision of hot food takeaways, was quashed by the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) citing “that there are no material considerations which would nevertheless justify refusing to grant planning permission.”

Midlothian Council refused permission due to the over provision of eateries in the town centre, there are some 28 units along the A701 which serve hot food. They said that this breached their DP7 planning policy:

The proposed development is contrary to Midlothian Local Plan policy DP7 as the cumulative effect of an additional hot food takeaway would adversely affect the vitality and viability of this part of the High Street due to the high number of hot food takeaways, cafes, restaurants, hotels and public houses in this part of the town centre.

This was a view echoed by twenty two surrounding businesses who signed a petition calling for permission to be refused. The Community Council also reiterated the concerns:

The ex-butchers shop has been empty for several years, and while it would be welcome to have it open rather than closed, the council thought it would not be compatible with the image that is needed for the High Street.

Two local businessmen, of Clippers and Little Italy respectively, both acknowledged that the rise in eateries was impacting on business. However despite these concerns, the DPEA granted permission on a technicality. Reporter Donald Harris visited the site in April briefly and made his decision yesterday. An appeal document states:

I note that the planning authority’s reasons for refusal refer to the effect on the vitality and viability of “this part of the High Street”. However, I interpret policy DP7 as applying to the town centre as a whole. This includes the area to the north, on and around John Street. Although there is a concentration of non-retail uses on both sides of the High Street, including restaurants and hot food shops, no evidence is submitted that the proposal would result in more than 50% of the town centre units being in non-retail use.

This is just one of the reporter, Donald Harris’, reasons for granting permission, the other being that the £9,000 per annum unit is best filled than vacant.

In addition to the permission being granted, Midlothian Council are now also expected to pay reparations to Scotmid who where unreasonably not given permission in the first place, according to Mr Harris. Should the two parties fail to reach an agreement on how much should be repaid, the council and Scotmid will go to court to settle their disagreement.

This new takeaway unit is one of 28 units along, or in the vicinity of, the A701 in Penicuik that has permission to serve hot food. It joins new restaurant Babu G in the shopping precinct.

What do you think about the overturn by the Scottish Government? Tell us below in the comment box or write a “Letter to the Editor” by emailing