A CALL to MSPs to support community views on highly controversial planning applications in North Berwick has been made by a local heritage group.

North Berwick Environment and Heritage Trust (NBEHT) has made the plea following a series of contentious planning applications.

It has raised its concerns with the county’s new MSP Paul McLennan and South Scotland MSPs Craig Hoy and Martin Whitfield.

The group is raising awareness of what it calls “widespread community disquiet” about planning and development matters, mentioning three recent applications that attracted strong local opposition.

It says that each “pitted conservation of the historic and natural environment and protection of biodiversity against the commercial aims of developers and the desire to make private use of what has been viewed historically either as public land or as part of the widely appreciated landscape setting of the town”.

One is the retirement village proposed for land at Castleton Farm, rejected by the Scottish Government earlier this month.

The application attracted a huge amount of opposition from residents.

The group’s letter to the MSPs also discusses an appeal by The Rocketeer Restaurant to overturn an initial rejection to have tables and chairs in place for three years at Anchor Green, as well as the approval of a fenced enclosure at an ancient woodland at Cotgreen, off Dirleton Avenue, despite a petition attracting more than 1,700 signatures.

NBEHT says the three applications are “examples of proposals and decisions that have caused and are causing considerable community dismay and disquiet”.

On the group’s decision to raise the issues on behalf of members and the local community, Professor Jonathan Best, NBEHT secretary, said: “We are in the fortunate – possibly unique – position in East Lothian of having something like a ‘democratic surplus’, rather than a deficit.

“We hope that, on their watch over the next five years, local MSP Paul McLennan, together with regional list MSPs Craig Hoy and Martin Whitfield, will be the voices of this community, making it heard through strong support and representation of community views.

“The climate emergency makes these matters more urgent, whether it’s a small patch of grass, a single tree, or acres of land creating open vistas or used for local food production.

“The group is gratified that MSP Paul McLennan has already replied, noting that ‘many of the issues you mention have been discussed at council level. I made my position clear on the Goldcrest application which I opposed’. Paul also said he would be happy to work with the group over the next five years.”

Olwyn Owen, trustee and signatory, heritage consultant, said: “As we come out of the pandemic into a climate emergency, this is the time to focus on conservation and protection of the environment.

“It is heartening to see the level of community engagement with planning matters in North Berwick.

“Now we need to ensure that those we elect to represent us, at both council and parliamentary level, prioritise this issue and help the community to withstand the pressure for developments that would harm our wonderful historic and natural environment.”