A DECISION to refuse plans to convert The Quay complex at Musselburgh into a nursing home has left the building’s owner “baffled”.

Lengthy discussions at East Lothian Council’s planning committee meeting on Tuesday regarding the waterside venue – previously a leisure complex home to a gym, restaurant and function suites among other facilities – ended with a near-unanimous decision to reject Simply Musselburgh Care Limited’s plans for a 40-bed nursing home.

Charan Gill, The Quay owner and entrepreneur, was frustrated by the decision, with only Councillor Norman Hampshire, convener of the committee, backing council officials’ recommendation to approve the proposals.

Following the meeting, Dr Gill said: “I am completely shocked and baffled by the decision to refuse planning for a much-needed care home for Musselburgh on a site which is unviable in its current use and now lies closed.

"The planning department and the chairman of the committee fully supported the application as this was an opportunity for Musselburgh to have a state-of-the-art facility that the older generation would enjoy with those wonderful views across the water. It would also provide 40 much-needed jobs.

“At last week’s public consultation in The Brunton regarding the pending closure of Eskgreen care home and the recent closure of Levenhall Care Home, it was clear that the people of Musselburgh were deeply concerned by the lack of care home beds in Musselburgh.

“The councillors have failed in their duty to address their concerns and needs.”

Eleven councillors attended the meeting to discuss the plans, which were called in by Musselburgh ward member John Williamson, who is not a member of the planning committee and was not involved in the final decision.

Planning officials had recommended the application be approved – and it would have been had Mr Williamson not called it in because he was concerned by “the amount of local opposition voiced through representations made by local umbrella organisations”.

Concerns included how the creation of the care home would impact upon the plans to develop and enhance the harbour.

The developers hoped the facility could be open within 12-18 months.

Musselburgh ward member Stuart Currie was among those opposing the plans. He said: “It just seems to me that it is right at the heart of the community.

“What we are challenged with is getting it right as best as we can and not being thought of as fools 20 years later who missed an opportunity. There is a tremendous opportunity to develop tourism and economic development in that area.”

Fellow ward member Andy Forrest agreed but was concerned that The Quay, which had been unsuccessfully marketed as a going concern, could become an eyesore if plans were not approved.

He said: “What we don’t want is a building going into a state of dilapidation and undermines the work that is being done there.”

The issue went to a vote (10-1), with only Mr Hampshire backing the recommendation to approve.

He warned members that the developer could appeal the decision to Scottish Ministers.

The exact wording of the reasons for refusal are being formalised by the council’s legal team in discussions with local councillors and Mr Hampshire.

He felt it was the “wrong move” to turn down the scheme and said: “The reasons we have given for refusal will not get the support of the Scottish Government. There is no reason it cannot be used as a nursing home.”

The developers are yet to announce if an appeal will be lodged.

Christopher O’Brien, Simply Care director, said: “Simply are disappointed as they had offered to deliver the much-needed care home within 18 months.

“We are set to provide 500 well-needed beds within the next two years in areas where care homes are required and Musselburgh has been identified as being one of those areas, especially with the closure of two previous homes.

“We will review the committee’s decision when they let us know why they refused the application.”