Power plant protesters warn of ‘devastatation’

Chalmers Church in Port Seton is packed for last night's maring energy plant protest meeting. Picture: Scott Louden
Chalmers Church in Port Seton is packed for last night's maring energy plant protest meeting. Picture: Scott Louden
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CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to build a huge power plant on the site of a Jacobite battle last night said the proposals would lead to “cataclysmic devastation”.

Almost 600 residents crammed into a meeting at Chalmers Church in Port Seton as part of local efforts to combat the proposals, which would see the disused Cockenzie power station transformed into a massive marine energy operation.

And organisers the Coastal Regeneration Alliance (CRA) yesterday submitted a petition of more than 3000 signatures to the Scottish Parliament calling for the controversial plans to be halted.

Their campaign has received the backing of former Scottish Labour leader and East Lothian MSP Iain Gray, who said he had received almost 1000 letters from constituents opposing the plans.

The “energy park” proposal from Scottish Enterprise would see the disused power station and surrounding land – including the site of the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans – transformed into a new power plant.

It would be the largest single development ever proposed for East Lothian, and would involve the neighbouring communities of Cockenzie and Prestonpans being separated by a compound enclosing the industrial site.

A new half-mile long quay would also be constructed on the shore to serve the plant.

But locals battling the move – which is yet to be considered by council planning chiefs – say the dredging this would require could destroy fishing and turn beaches black from unearthed coal.

Campaigner Tim Porteus said: “They will rip everything up and the fishing will be destroyed. We are looking at a cataclysmic devastation of our coast and our communities.”

Last night’s meeting also saw the launch of a formal letter of complaint to East Lothian Council Chief Executive Angela Leitch over the council’s handling of the proposals and its alleged failure to consult with the wider community. And campaigners vowed they would take the matter to the European Parliament if the Scottish Government ignored their complaints.

Speaking after last night’s meeting, Mr Gray said: “What I think tonight’s meeting showed – and it is not the first – is the strength of feeling about the Scottish Enterprise proposals.

“I have had almost 1000 letters from local residents expressing their opposition to the proposal that is being brought forward, and I have written back saying I agree with them.

“The proposal is unacceptable. The local people feel very much that they have been cut out of the process, and it’s clear that the community is not going to accept it.”

A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council said proposals for the site were at a “very early stage”.

She added: “We are aware of the views of the Coastal Regeneration Alliance and are following the current community consultation process. We would re-emphasise that, at this stage, no planning applications have been received for an energy park and, as such, no decisions have been taken.”

David Leven, head of energy infrastructure at Scottish Enterprise, said: “We are committed to carrying out comprehensive consultation with the local community and will continue to engage with the key stakeholders in the coming months.