Letter: Why are we ‘sacrificing’ prime agricultural land?
Such an example was the headline ‘6,500 new homes will need to be built in East Lothian over the next decade’ (East Lothian Courier, November 17) filling me with dread and real concern for the future of our county which had previously – and rightfully – earned the title ‘Garden of Scotland’, thanks to its unrivalled arable produce.
The county’s reputation was primarily due to a combination of exceptional soil composition, natural drainage and East Lothian’s favourable climate, and of course world-respected growers, of whom a few remain, which enabled unrivalled quality and superior yields, especially in vegetable crops but also the growing of grains.
I was therefore initially pleased to read the front page of the Courier of January 12, ‘Bid for 195 homes, business units and restaurant turned down’, at first relieved that councillors on the planning committee had at long last come to their senses – until I got to the third paragraph, stating that “the planning application for 196 homes on nearly nine hectares of agricultural land earmarked in [East Lothian Council’s] own Local Development Plan for employment [commercial development] use”.
While I appreciate the need to encourage business development which generates valuable employment opportunities, surely our elected members and their officials cannot continue to preside over the continuous and sustained sacrificing of valuable agricultural land in an area widely recognised as one of Scotland’s premium arable farming areas?
Indeed, I could not agree more with councillor Jeremy Findlay, who said back in March last year that he was “concerned that the [revised Scottish Government planning] proposals allowed a huge loophole for developers to build houses on prime agricultural land”, especially given wholesale loss of prime quality agricultural land to housing and commercial developments, especially when brownfield options must surely be available.
Having retired several years ago as a significant grower of vegetables here in East Lothian, considering the climate emergency and the effects of housing and commercial development on drainage, wildlife, woodlands, leisure and recreation, natural amenity and lost agricultural capacity, surely this continuous depletion of farming land has got to stop, because, once it’s gone, it’s lost forever.
David Chalmers Senior
East Lothian Courier
By Community contributor