A LACK of alternative plans has been blamed for a decision to allow a substation to be built on a coastal site which has been earmarked to bring more than 3,000 jobs to East Lothian.
Disappointment at the Scottish Government’s decision to allow offshore windfarm firm Inch Cape Offshore Ltd to build the substation on the former Cockenzie Power Station site has been expressed by local politicians and councillors.
But in her submission on the proposal to Holyrood Ministers, the Scottish Government Reporter pointed to a “lack of evidence” of any of the alternative proposals for the site.
And she said she remained in the dark over East Lothian Council’s failure to adopt a masterplan which was published on its behalf in November 2017 setting out a clear vision for the future of the 98 hectare site.
Ministers called in the application by Inch Cape, who want to bring energy from their offshore windfarm onto land at the site, earlier this year.
The move was announced as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was visiting China where she met representatives of the Chinese State run Red Rock, which own Inch Cape.
The Reporter held a public inquiry last year and heard submissions from Inch Cape, the council and Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Councils.
Inch Cape had argued that despite the masterplan, drawn up after extensive public meetings about the future of the site, and documents produced by both community councils outlining their own aspirations for the land, their proposal was the “only credible plan on the table”.
And in her submission to Scottish Ministers, the Reporter agreed.
She said: “It remains unclear to me why the council has failed to endorse the masterplan as a statement of council policy.
“There is reference to a number of port investors who have expressed interest in the site but neither the council nor any other party were able to provide evidence of this.
“The council’s submissions also allude to potential alternative uses and expressions of interest from other users. However no concrete evidence was produced in respect of any competing users.
“My conclusion is that there is currently no competing use for this site.”
Scottish Ministers approved the planning application after considering the Reporter’s findings which placed the national importance of the site, which is identified for energy renewal above local aspirations.
Councillor John McMillan, the council’s economic development spokesman, said: “We are hugely disappointed with this decision.
“We acquired the former Cockenzie Power Station site because we recognised its importance to local communities and its potential for economic development and jobs.
“We remain of the view that the substation does not need to be built as it is currently proposed, as this will diminish the ability to bring new jobs to the area.”
Councillor Lachlan Bruce described the situation as “farcical”.