Under-50s banned from buying houses on Scottish estate

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Parents have been banned from buying family homes on a new housing estate in what is believed to be the first time a council has restricted access to housing to protect a popular state school.

Parents have been banned from buying family homes on a new housing estate in what is believed to be the first time a council has restricted access to housing to protect a popular state school.

West Lothian Council has vetoed anyone under 50 occupying the three- or four-bedroom properties at Threemiletown, west of Edinburgh, because of the popularity of Linlithgow Academy, among the best secondary schools in Scotland.

The estate will more than double the number of homes at the settlement, four miles from Linlithgow in Edinburgh's commuter belt, which has just three rows of cottages and a small play area for young children.

But the council has stipulated that the larger houses may be sold only to people at or approaching retirement age. If the older home-owners want to sell on the homes, they cannot sell it to young people, although the council will have discretion to waive the rule.

"We have a real problem with Linlithgow Academy," councillor Willie Dunn said. "It is one of the top 10 schools in Scotland and more and more people want to send their children there but the school is already full. To grant planning permission without this condition for a number of houses that could possibly have kids would be irresponsible because it would cause real problems with the school."

The estate is planned by Alliance Developments, an Edinburgh builder, which has planning permission to turn an old farmstead into eight luxury apartments, and build a further 19 new homes on the 1.2-hectare site overlooking the Forth rail bridge. Eleven of the family homes are to have three or four bedrooms.

Linlithgow Academy, already full, has the highest number of pupils in the area achieving standard grades and highers. Two years ago the school was at the centre of a legal battle when a sheriff ruled that the council was wrong to refuse places to children in its catchment area, forcing the school to add an extra class.

To avoid a similar battle, the developer will have to sign a legal agreement under the Town and Country Planning Act 1997 which allows local authorities to limit what is done with premises after they are built. A council spokesman said the under-50 ban would be applied in "much in the same way as has been done elsewhere for developments of retirement housing for elderly people".

But he added: "It would be possible to make provision within this agreement for the restriction to be reviewed, possibly when education capacity problems have been resolved."

Threemiletown, 20 minutes from Edinburgh by train and 10 minutes from the city airport is ideal for commuters wishing to cash in on the property boom in Edinburgh and move out.

But many of the residents are elderly and there are fears the ban could create a retirement "ghetto". Edward Clapham, treasurer of the OAP club and a villager for nine years, said: "It's not a bad idea, but it won't help to bring new blood in."

A spokeswoman for Your Move, an estate agent in Linlithgow, said: "How many 50-year-olds without kids want four-bedroom houses? Most people in that age group and in that position want to downsize if anything, not spend £400,000 for a bigger house."

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