NEARLY 6,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that the Battle of Prestonpans site is protected, after draft plans for the future of the land suggested turning it into an industrial estate.

A furious row erupted after Prestonpans Community Council unveiled its draft proposals for ScottishPower land at the former Cockenzie Power Station and surrounding land, including fields which the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trusts consider a vital site of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s famous victory.

Community councillor Calum Miller sparked anger after claiming there was “no desire” to preserve the battle site, adding: “Nobody is interested in the battle site. What people are interested in is jobs to be created.”

His comments, reported in the Courier, sparked an angry response from groups trying to create a memorial to the battle on the fields, which lie behind the former power station coal store.

Arran Johnston, from the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust, said: “No desire for a battle site? There IS a battle site and we have a duty to preserve it as a site of significance for future generations. This is an outrageous attitude to take towards our heritage. There is plenty of scope for job creation elsewhere within this site.”

While Ed Bethune, from the Coastal Regeneration Alliance (CRA), which wants a community buy out of the battle site as well as the Greenhills in the town, said: “Building on these fields would destroy multiple layers of history.”

A petition at calling on East Lothian Council, the Scottish Government and Prestonpans Community Council to protect the fields has attracted thousands of signatures.

The trust has released its own future plans for the battle site. It includes recent introduction of bilingual signs for walkers and a planned new mobile app which will offer additional information as they tour the site.

There are also plans to reopen the Bankton Doocot by September to be included in the site area with an imaginative telling of Colonel Gardiner’s story, and the trust is working with the CRA to preserve and honour the Waggonway which crosses the site, creating interpretation boards and signage for the former railway line, as well as its own app.

A spokesperson said: “The trustees were taken totally by surprise at the draft which Calum Miller’s sub-committee of Prestonpans Community Council has produced for consultation in the town suggesting ‘we don’t need a battlefield’.

“We believe almost all in our community are aware of the trust’s efforts since 2006 to honour this aspect of our unique heritage through annual re-enactments and commemorations, music, theatre, poetry, archaeological study, monument restoration, interpretation boards, our 104-metre tapestry with approaching 500,000 visitors globally since 2010.

“Social media reaction to Calum’s comments suggest he’s definitely in a minority and is not speaking for the community. But if he’s right about a minority the trust obviously needs to do more to share what has been achieved since 2006 and more importantly what is to come in the future.”

The trust said it was also working with ScottishPower to return the battle site to agriculture, as it was in 1745, and to create a ‘Field of Remembrance’ containing the two tables commemorating the Clans and Regiments which fought, and which Gardner Molloy is currently carving in Cockenzie for the trust.

The trust also hopes to create a living history centre at Prestongrange Museum, which members believe could attract more than 100,000 visitors each year.

Mr Miller said the proposals were a “draft” plan, designed to generate discussion and going out to public consultation.