WORK is now under way to transform a landmark building in Haddington town centre into flats, a cafe and an art gallery.

Ambitious plans to revive the former George Hotel and bring it back to life were given the go ahead by East Lothian Council at the end of last month.

Work is already under way on the building, at the eastern end of the High Street, with Jim Wilkie, director of MNH (Haddington) Ltd, keen to see things moving forward.

He said: “The George Hotel seems to have captured the imagination.

“It has been such an eyesore for so long that you can only make it better and people seem pleased that we are doing something.”

Scaffolding is currently up on the building, with the company making the building wind and watertight.

The plans are made up of a retail unit, which is expected to be a gallery, a cafe and 15 flats.

The cafe would occupy part of the ground floor, with the retail unit on part of the ground floor and also the first floor.

Then flats would then be created over four floors, including the ground floor.

Already, work has been carried out inside, with Mr Wilkie, who has lived in North Berwick for more than 20 years, hopeful the commercial units could be complete within a matter of weeks.

He added: “We are hoping by the end of September the whole area will look visually better.

“There is still work to do inside but outside is nearly done.”

Once the commercial units are complete, attention will turn to the flats, with Mr Wilkie hopeful work will be carried out in 2017.

The Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland highlighted that the former hotel had lain vacant since 2011.

Since then it had been “extensively marketed” as an ongoing concern as a hotel/restaurant/function suite.

However, East Lothian Council's report notes: “After such marketing there was no interest for the building to remain as a hotel.

“Based on this case it is accepted that reasonable efforts have been made to market the property as a hotel.”

Jan Wilson, chairwoman of the town's community council, was delighted to see work now taking place.

She said: “That's brilliant news.

“The fact that the building is going to be used and they seem to have quite a good grasp of what is needed; we welcomed it, the whole lot of us.

“It is a beautiful building and it is good to see something being done, particularly where it is in the town – it is a prime location.”