By Marie Sharp
Pressure is being piled on Scottish Ministers to release the findings of a
report into controversial plans to build on a prime coastal site.
The Scottish Government called in a planning application to build a
substation on the former Cockenzie Power Station site last March after the
land was bought by East Lothian Council.
Now, Scottish Conservatives are demanding the findings of the investigation
be made public after they were sent to Ministers in private.
South of Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne said the decision, which came
after months of public hearings and representation, “beggars belief”, while
ward councillor Lachlan Bruce said people were left wondering what the
Scottish Government was doing “behind closed doors”.
East Lothian Labour MSP Iain Gray has already tabled a motion at the
Scottish Parliament demanding a public update on the decision as offshore
windfarm company Inch Cape, which put in the planning application to build
the substation, begins eight weeks of “investigative work” there.
And East Lothian Council has said it is also considering writing to the
Scottish Government, adding: “The council believes it is important for
there to be transparency in the decision-making process.”
The decision on the application by Inch Cape, which is owned by Chinese
state-owned company Red Rock, was taken away from council planners as First
Minister Nicola Sturgeon was on an official visit to China last March.
Inch Cape’s plans to bring energy from an offshore windfarm onto land at
Cockenzie have been criticised by the council and communities for
potentially sterilising a large area of land which has the potential to
bring over 3,000 jobs to the county.
The Scottish Government reporter scrutinised hundreds of documents from all
sides and oversaw a public hearing in Cockenzie late last year.
Her findings have been passed to Scottish Minister but are not being made
public at this stage.
The Scottish Government said: “An independent planning reporter was
appointed to consider this case, produce a report and make recommendations
in order for the final decision to be taken by Scottish Ministers.
“The reporter has submitted her report and recommendations on the proposal
and a decision will be made in due course.”
A council spokesperson said: “We understand that the reporter’s findings
are now with Scottish Ministers, who will now determine the Inch Cape
planning application, and that the contents of the report will be made
public when that decision is announced.
“The council believes it is important for there to be transparency in the
decision-making process. We are considering possible correspondence with
the Scottish Government on this matter. The leader of the council has also
indicated that he will be writing to express similar concern to the minister.”
Mr Gray said the decision on the future of the site should never have been
taken away from the council in the first place. He said: “It is of such
great importance to the communities affected and the whole of East Lothian
that it should have been determined by East Lothian Council and local people.
“The community needs to know what is happening and what the Scottish
Government’s decision will be, which is why I have tabled a question in
Parliament asking Ministers to provide an urgent update.”
Conservative councillor Mr Bruce said: “The Scottish Government denied the
local authority’s right to make a decision on this application in the first
place, making the whole process unfair and open to proper local scrutiny.
“The fact that the report still hasn’t been released continues to shroud
this whole saga in mystery and will leave many local people wondering what
the Scottish Government is doing behind closed doors.”
And Ms Ballantyne added: “It’s incumbent on the Scottish Government to be
open and transparent over their decision-making process.
“During the formation of the report, the public engaged heavily by taking
part in public hearings and contributing towards the report. Local
stakeholders deserve to know the outcome of the report and, quite frankly,
it beggars belief that the Scottish Government have chosen to keep this