CONTROVERSIAL plans to create a £5.5m National Marine Centre in North Berwick have been rejected by East Lothian councillors.

The application to expand the Scottish Seabird Centre into a larger visitor attraction was debated for more than three hours at a packed meeting of East Lothian Council's planning committee in Haddington Town House today (Tuesday).

The 11 members of the committee voted 7-4 to turn down the proposals, which were not supported by East Lothian Council's planning officials.

Four Labour councillors – John McMillan, Norman Hampshire, Colin McGinn and Andrew Forrest – backed the project.

But local councillor Jeremy Findlay was joined by his Conservative colleagues Brian Small and Lachlan Bruce in voting against it, as did Labour councillor Fiona O'Donnell and SNP councillors Stuart Currie, Tom Trotter and Kenny McLeod.

Planning officials called for the proposals to be turned down "by virtue of its height, size, scale, bulk, massing, architectural form and external finishes and its positioning, would be an overdevelopment of the site that would appear harmfully overbearing, dominant, intrusive and exposed within its landscape setting, out of keeping with its surroundings, disruptive to views of the harbour promontory and harmful to this historic part of the North Berwick Conservation Area."

Representatives of the Scottish Seabird Centre spoke about the benefits of the plans while the North Berwick Harbour Trust Association, East Lothian Yacht Club and the town’s community council all stressed their backing for the Scottish Seabird Centre but felt the plans were simply not right.

Those in favour stressed the potential economic boosts it could bring to the town but those against claimed that  “limited economic benefits” did not justify setting aside the visual impact the development would have on “the historic character and assets of this part of North Berwick”.