CONTROVERSIAL plans for a statue of a 16-foot bear to be created on the outskirts of Dunbar have been turned down.

The bear, which was a nod to John Muir and would have been created by Andy Scott, the artist behind the world-famous Kelpies near Falkirk, would have stood to the east of the town.

However, East Lothian Council’s planning officials have dismissed the proposals, pointing to the potential impact the statue would have on vehicles travelling along the nearby A1.

A spokeswoman for the local authority said: “The siting of the proposed sculpture, mound and footpaths could result in inappropriate parking which would interfere with the safety and free flow of traffic on the A1 trunk road.”

Ken Ross, from Hallhill Developments Limited, which is behind the proposal, described the rejection as “ludicrous” and had hoped to address issues raised by Transport Scotland.

He said: “What I am more disappointed with is having engaged with the council, they agreed they would continue the application to allow further discussions on the matters being raised by Transport Scotland.”

Mr Ross was unsure how the project would now progress but highlighted that the firm had engaged with one of the country’s most talented artists.

The Kelpies have become an iconic piece of artwork viewed across the world and it was hoped the bear statue would have a similar impact.

The bear design was selected by the developer, which has been involved in the construction of more than 500 houses in the south of the town, as a tribute to John Muir, who was born in the town before emigrating with his family to the USA and playing a lead role in the formation of the country’s national park system. The statue would have been created through the Percent for Art Scheme, which is a condition of planning consent.

Developers have to allocate a percentage of their capital spend to fund public artworks and involve an artist in any building project as early as possible.

The plans, which had attracted plenty of interest throughout Dunbar, split the town’s community council when members met last month.

Community councillors Pippa Swan and Sue Anderson questioned the scheme.

Mrs Swan, who is also chairwoman of Dunbar and East Linton Area Partnership, described the proposed location as “bizarre”.

She said: “For me it is a bizarre proposal and it looks like a polar bear or like an advertisement for a safari park.”

Similarly, Mrs Anderson had concerns that the bear, which was shown standing on its hind legs in an artist’s impression (see above), was the wrong idea in the wrong place.

She added: “I cannot believe there has been so little discussion between the developer, the community council and the community.”

However, fellow community councillor Herbert Coutts was more positive about the sculpture and highlighted the impact of the Kelpies and also the Angel of the North, near Gateshead.

He said: “I know at the time the Kelpies were being proposed there was a lot of opposition to that but now they are being recognised as being icons for Scotland. I drive along that road very regularly and look forward to seeing them.”

Dunbar Community Council is due to meet on Monday evening for its annual awards ceremony.

It is unclear if the refusal of planning permission for the statue will be discussed but, speaking last Friday, Stephen Bunyan, the group’s chairman, said: “Clearly it was controversial in Dunbar.

“Obviously some people will be delighted but I think it is a pity.

“Whether or not the bear was the right answer, I think the idea of a focal point had a certain merit to it.”

A design statement included in the planning application to the local authority highlighted that the statue of the animal would have been made of welded steel and fully galvanised to protect it against the weather. Standing on a mound, the bear statue would have been visible from the A1.