THE former Cockenzie Power Station site has been sold to East Lothian Council.

The local authority has taken ownership of the site in a deal which remains a closely guarded secret.

The sale has been at the centre of lengthy negotiations with former owners ScottishPower, with bids being made by other interested parties.

However, ScottishPower named the council as its preferred bidder in October last year and the two parties have been working on a deal ever since.

This morning they confirmed that the sale had been made and the keys had been officially handed over.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, depute council leader, said: “I am delighted at this outcome.

"This is a key site of huge importance to the economic future of East Lothian and for the communities that surround it.

“The council has been actively involved in discussions around the future of the site for a number of years now, since it became clear that Cockenzie Power Station was to be decommissioned and that plans for a gas-fired station would not be going ahead.

"Now that the future ownership of the site is clear, the council can move forward with marketing the site for commercial opportunities, which will form a key part of the planned economic growth within East Lothian.

“It is important to stress at this stage that community consultation will remain a key element of how we move forward and bring about more developed plans for what the site will be used for in the coming years."

The council commissioned a masterplan for the site last year which has been described as a "vision document" bringing together ideas from public consultations and meetings with community groups.

It looks at various options to use the site, from creating industrial zones to leisure zones and green space.

Councillor Neil Gilbert, ward councillor for Preston Seton Gosford, welcomed the purchase.

He said: "This is good news, not just for my ward but for all of East Lothian. 

"It has presented the county with a fantastic opportunity for economic development and job creation, an opportunity that will probably never be repeated. 

"We must though proceed in a way that fully engages with the local community in the agreeing the way forward. 

"It is important that all parties involved in the development of the site take the time necessary to ensure that we get the best possible outcome.”

Fellow ward member Councillor Lachlan Bruce said: "This is brilliant news for Cockenzie, Port Seton and Prestonpans although of course it doesn’t mean development will start straight away.

"We will need to work across the communities in the area to come up with development that works for everyone and that will provide jobs for local people on the site.

"We also need to identify businesses and organisations with an interest in developing on the site. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity here and it is only right and proper that we take our time before making any firm decisions."

Lee Warren, head of thermal generation at ScottishPower, said: “ScottishPower is pleased to have completed the sale of the former Cockenzie Power Station site after several months of positive discussions with East Lothian Council.

"ScottishPower will work closely with East Lothian Council to ensure arrangements are finalised for the ongoing maintenance and management of the assets it continues to be responsible for associated with the Musselburgh Lagoons.”