Survival of boatyard is all at sea

Launching the Sapphire, the last fishing boat to be launched at Cockenzie harbour in East Lothian, June 1969.
Launching the Sapphire, the last fishing boat to be launched at Cockenzie harbour in East Lothian, June 1969.
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A BOATYARD which built torpedo boats and pontoons during the Second World War is set to be demolished to make way for a £3 million affordable housing scheme.

The plans to close Cockenzie Boat Repair Yard sparked anger among many in the local community, who fear the town’s historic ties to boat-building will be lost.

A campaign to save the yard was launched by former police custody officer John Simpson, who recently bought a rundown pilot boat, the Dolphin, built in the yard in 1964, hoping to restore it as a pleasure boat in his retirement.

The development, which is being run in partnership between developer Morris & Spottiswood and East Lothian Council, would see 28 houses and four flats built on the site after the demolition of the boatyard on West Harbour Road.

Mr Simpson, 64, from East Lorimer Place, is leading the fight to save the yard where his 44ft-long boat is one of four vessels currently being repaired. He said: “I think the majority of local residents are appalled, just appalled, by these plans.

“The boatyard should be developed to create jobs. East Lothian Council owns the harbour and grants are available for these kinds of projects. There isn’t another facility like it on the east coast.

“Hundreds of houses have been built in this area and the primary school is already bursting at the seams.

“We have started a campaign opposing the plans and we’re looking at getting a petition started. The Pond Hall was bulldozed to make way for houses years ago after a long fight. We’ve already lost so much of our heritage here and this would be another big loss.”

The scheme, being run in partnership with East Lothian Council, would see 28 houses and four flats built on the site after the demolition of the boatyard on West Harbour Road. Council chiefs received a grant of £990,000 from the Scottish Government to put towards the project, which is aimed at providing more affordable housing in the area.

Stewart Adams, development manager with Morris & Spottiswood, said: “We had a fairly lively meeting at Port Seton Community Centre attended by 30 to 40 people as part of the consultation process.

“The views were fairly mixed but I would say the majority wanted something to be done with the site. The boatyard is in extremely poor condition and is not capable of economic use. It’s a bit of an eyesore.

“With the current economic climate, affordable housing is probably the only option.”

The company expects the council to return a decision on the plans in February, with construction work expected to take a year to complete.

An East Lothian Council spokeswoman said: “The application will be considered by the planning committee.”

amcewen@edinburghnews.com