VILLAGERS up in arms at plans to build hundreds of homes on their doorstep claim they were delivered an astonishing snub by an aristocratic developer.
Residents in Longniddry say their concerns about proposals for farmland owned by the Earl of Wemyss and March on the edge of the village are being ignored.
And they say that when the plans were criticised at a public meeting attended by about 300 people, the earl’s stepson, Rock Fielding, who is a Tory councillor in Kensington and Chelsea, told them: “The estate will not be dictated to by the village.”
Residents’ group Listen to Longniddry said Mr Fielding’s remark raised the question of whether the estate was ever interested in engaging with the views of local people over its move to develop greenbelt land at substantial profit.
Colin Kemp, spokesman for Listen to Longniddry, said: “As far as the village is concerned, his comment said it all. People feel the whole attitude is arrogant and patronising.”
The development proposal is being put forward by a company called Socially Conscious Capital (SCC), of which Mr Fielding is a director.
The original plan envisaged around 750 new homes on the south side of the east coast rail line, but the proposed development has now been cut to around 400 houses.
An intensive three-day consultation session or “charette” was held on the plans last week – but villagers claim only two or three people attended on two of the days and about a dozen on the third because most people were at work during the day.
The sessions were organised by The Princes Foundation for Building Community, set up by Prince Charles to promote “sustainable urbanism” and employed as consultants on the project.
But Mr Kemp said it was ironic that the foundation was involved in backing plans to build on some of Scotland’s best agricultural land while the prince was guest-editing Country Life magazine and warning about the need to preserve the countryside. “It is as precious as any of our great cathedrals and we erode it at our peril,” Charles wrote.
Mr Kemp said the rail line was a natural boundary to the village and any expansion on the other side seemed a major breach. “People say, if it’s agreed to build some houses there, where does it stop?”
In a statement to the Evening News, Mr Fielding said there were no firm proposals at present. “We could have done this design work behind closed doors, then consulted much later on, but instead we did this first iteration in an open process with resident input,” he said.
And he added: “My comment in terms of saying that we would not be dictated to by the village has been taken wholly out of context. What I was referring to was that we would not be taking a decision based solely on those assembled in the hall that evening, a fraction of the population of the village as a whole.” The Princes Foundation said it aimed to plan for Longniddry’s sustainable future “while retaining the unique appeal and character its residents cherish”.