Concern as £30,000 pledged to site vision

A grassroots vision for a climate change centre and giant fisherwomen statues at a former power station site has been given up to £30,000 to develop its case despite concerns over a lack of widespread community support.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 4:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 4:26 pm
An artist's impression of the 360 Centre project.

East Lothian Councillors unanimously backed a call from their development officers to pledge the money for a feasibility study into the Cockenzie 360 Project.

However concerns were raised over a lack of engagement with neighbouring community councillors with warnings it must not “build a wall” between communities.

And one councillor described herself as “uncomfortable” with pledging public money to the project which was described by the local authority’s head of development as a “broad ranging project that they have in their heads”.

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The community-led project was sparked by Dr Jill des Fresnes, who is employed by East Lothian Council to oversee Preston Seton Gosford heritage project Salt of the Earth.

It produced its vision document in March this year with a climate change education centre, giant statues on public space looking out to sea – which would be big enough for people to go inside and climb as viewing platforms – and the rewilding of surrounding land.

It is the latest community vision to be put forward for the site since its famous twin chimneys were demolished in 2015.

East Lothian Council bought the former Cockenzie Power Station and surrounding land from Scottish Power three and a half years ago and see it as an important economic site for the county.

However to date the only concrete proposals for the 230-acre site have been for two substation buildings to bring offshore energy onto land and into the National Grid.

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£30k bill for Eden-style project feasibility study at Cockenzie

The latest study will be the third time the council has investigated potential plans for the site taking the total spent to more than £200,000.

In 2017 the council produced a £150,000 masterplan for the former power station site which it described as a “visionary document” for its future after public consultation.

Last year it produced a feasibility study into a proposed port or cruise terminal at the site at a cost of around £25,000.

At a virtual meeting of councillors yesterday Michaela Sullivan, head of development, said of the 360 project: “It is quite a broad ranging project that they have in their heads and I think the feasibility study will help them narrow it down to what might be realistic.

“Everyone is aware that the scale of development they are looking at is not something the council could fund they will need to find other funds.”

Local councillor Fiona O’Donnell raised concerns that the people involved have not established a formal constitutionalised group with a governance structure.

And she asked council officers to ensure the group engaged with Prestonpans Community Council, which also sits next to the site adding “that engagement hasn’t taken place yet and I think it will be really important.”

Councillor Jane Henderson said she was confused by the request for funding coming before any work was ready to commence adding “we are actually pledging council money so I am slightly uncomfortable.”

Councillors unanimously approved funding of up to £30,000 for a feasibility study into the project to go ahead.

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