£11.4m East Lothian Council project a 'new level of self interest' says objector

A decision to back plans to use more than £11million of levelling up funds to remove giant bunds on council-owned land has been described as setting a 'new level of self interest' by one objector.

East Lothian Council's planning committee this week approved plans to take material used to create the bunds at a coal store site linked for the former Cockenzie Power Station and use it to infill part of the site to make it more developable.

But committee members heard nearly 50 objections to the proposals had been lodged with concerns about the noise, dust, possible asbestos release and impact on wildlife all raised.

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And one local resident told the meeting that the £11.4million grant East Lothian Council received for 'Levelling Up' was not meant to be literal, referring to plans to use materials from the bunds to fill in a four metre deep area of the former power station.

He said: "This grant (application) has been made by the council, it will be based on a council proposal for council-owned land and unless the decision is called in, it will obtain planning consent from the council. It puts the definition of self interest in a new light.

"The public sees this though and doesn't think it is very fair or reasonable."

Mr Jones questioned whether the work at the site was 'essential' as described in the application for the levelling up grant suggesting it could be put to better use in the surrounding communities.

He said: "Why is there no work planned at Cockenzie harbour or Prestonpans? I was told by a senior officer of the council that this was being included.

"The boat club has no slip way, the old pipeline in Prestonpans is deteriorating and Cockenzie harbour has a hole in it you could park a U-boat in. Both towns are at risk from sea level change but this bid does nothing for them, other than protect the council's own land like an island between the towns."

The report on the planning application put before the planning committee did not mention the full cost of the enabling work planned for the 37 hectare site which was bought by the council from ScottishPower six years ago to promote its ambition to grow the economy and create jobs in the county.

To date the only proposals approved on the site have been for two sub stations to bring energy onto land from offshore windfarms and a battery storage facility.

The meeting was told the work to use materials from the bunds to infill the site would release more land on the site which could be developed.

However members heard from local resident Brian Hall who also objected raising concerns about the presence of asbestos within areas planned for demolition and the impact on nearby residents health.

And the chairman of Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council Bryan Hickman also put forward their objection to the plans.

He said he had carried out a number of surveys of wildlife on the bunds identifying a number of birds on the amber list because if declining numbers as well as grey partridges which were on a red endangered list.

He said claims the council could mitigate for the loss of biodiversity by creating a new site on nearby fields were not acceptable as it would take years for a new site to develop.

At the meeting yesterday Councillor John McMillan, the administration's economic development spokesperson said he did not know what the remaining land would be used for but supported plans to enable its development.

And he said he was confident conditions imposed on the application would cover concerns by locals as work was carried out.

He said: "We have acquired a site which is major. There is around five hectares which are four to five metres deep which does need literally levelling up and I've been very proud of our officers work, particularly during Covid, particularly when they were under pressure to get that levelling up application in.

"The levelling up at the coal store and power station site will mean there will be different platforms and quite frankly I don't know what will come in there but I know what is proposed will help us bring in jobs, good, green jobs."

The committee unanimously approved the planned work.

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