Calls to reverse Cockenzie House care home plans

Cockenzie House. Picture: Neil Hanna
Cockenzie House. Picture: Neil Hanna
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CAMPAIGNERS are calling on the Scottish Government to reverse a controversial decision to build a care home in the gardens of a historic building.

The 60-bed nursing home is set to be erected just yards from the A-listed Cockenzie House in East Lothian after councillors gave the go-ahead at a tense meeting.

But critics argue any new building will “dominate and compete with Cockenzie House”, destroy tourism, create a dangerous boom in traffic and have a “detrimental impact” on the community.

And now the SNP’s East Lothian leader Stuart Currie has written to Scottish ministers asking them to overrule the decision. Mr Currie branded the approval of the scheme a “disgrace”, adding: “Historic Scotland had strongly objected to the proposal and council officers had made clear the application should be refused.

“Our last hope must now be that Scottish ministers call in and reverse the application to protect Cockenzie House and support the local community.”

It is claimed the new proposals, which have been lodged by landowner Patricia Maria McDonald and Edinburgh-based Gilberts architects, will create up to 100 full and part-time jobs. The move comes after previous attempts to build a care home in the grounds of Cockenzie House were rejected by planning chiefs due to fears over the negative impact on the Conservation Area.

In a bid to get the scheme accepted, developers reduced the new plans from 66 rooms to 60, and from three storeys to two.

Tuesday’s meeting of East Lothian Council’s planning committee saw members split on whether to approve or reject the proposals – with committee chair Councillor Norman Hampshire eventually casting the deciding vote in favour of the plans.

He said: “This decision was against the recommendation of the officers and it was not supported by Historic Scotland.

“I used my casting vote to support the application, so it’s gone through on that basis. The main reason is that the development is to the east of the home – it’s not in front of the home so the views are not affected by this development.

“There is also a massive need for a care home facility in East Lothian – and especially within the Prestonpans, Port Seton, Cockenzie and Longniddry area, because there are no care home facilities in that ward. Any old person who needs that care has to move outwith the local area.”

The house itself, which dates back to 1680, is currently leased to Cockenzie House and Gardens – a charity seeking to develop the property for the benefit of the community.

It is understood Historic Scotland, which is the statutory consultee on the development, is now set to uphold its objections to the plans in an effort to get ministers to intervene.

A Historic Scotland spokesman said: “We objected to these proposals in June as we believe the proposed plans would have a significant negative impact on the setting of category A-listed Cockenzie House and on the integrity of its inventory designed landscape.

“Our position remains unchanged and we intend to uphold our objection.”

A spokesman for Gilberts architects, which is behind the care home design, declined to comment.