THE first phase of plans to transform a former golf course into a “high-quality tourism and visitor experience” could be up and running by next summer.

Proposals to breathe new life into the former Whitekirk Golf and Country Club, which closed its doors in February 2016, have been given the go-ahead by East Lothian Council.

Whitekirk Hill Ltd aims to create a leisure club, restaurant, bar and cafe at the site, with a children’s indoor and outdoor play area also planned.

A second set of plans, which could be submitted within a matter of weeks, would see holiday accommodation created on the site, which is to the north-east of the village, off the A198.

Jim Wilkie, from Whitekirk Hill Ltd, was delighted to see the first set of proposals get the go-ahead.

He said: “We are happy to have our formal consent for the clubhouse.

“Now we have got that, we can really cement our plans to get it started.

“We have commenced the essential repairs; we have stopped the rain coming in, which is a good start.

“We are basically started: we have got to get a building warrant but from September it will be a full site start.”

Mr Wilkie is keen to see the clubhouse open by June next year, with somewhere between 10 and 20 jobs expected to be created.

Meanwhile, plans for the lodges will be lodged with East Lothian Council soon, with Mr Wilkie hoping that 10 could be built by the summer of 2020.

He said: “Planning consent [for the first phase of the development] is a milestone.

“It was one we were always going to get – there was not a single objection.

“I think it is a good thing to get the building back into use but anything that scale takes time.”

According to plans which were submitted to East Lothian Council in March: “The proposals will see the reopening of the leisure club, the refurbishment of the restaurant and bar areas as well as the creation of an attractive orangery area offering an additional dining experience and views to the south-east over the North Sea coastline.

“Finally the redevelopment will also see the creation of an indoor children’s play area and associated cafe.

“Overall, Whitekirk Hill is seeking to create an attractive, 12-month, all-weather facility.”

The golf club first opened in 1995 and ambitious plans, under previous owners, to develop the popular course were revealed in 2008.

That included a 100-bed hotel, new clubhouse and second golf course, as well as 21 lodges and 42 new homes.

However, the plans never got off the ground, with the worldwide financial crisis blamed.

And two-and-a-half-years ago, the complex closed.

Since then, the clubhouse has sat empty and fallen into a state of disrepair.

Tony Thomas, representing Whitekirk Hill Ltd, outlined in a planning statement that they hoped the revamped clubhouse would attract day trippers, event-goers and people visiting friends and family.

He said: “The new facilities at Whitekirk Hill will offer a new high-quality tourism/visitor experience at an established location.

“The facilities will be equally attractive to summer and winter visitors, helping to extend the year-round visitor offer in East Lothian.”

Councillor Jeremy Findlay, of North Berwick Coastal ward, was pleased to see the first phase of plans get the go ahead.

He told the Courier: “I cannot comment on the second stage of plans [because he is on the planning committee] but regarding the old clubhouse it is a good addition to the facilities in that part of East Lothian and the whole tourism product as well.”

Ward colleague Jim Goodfellow added: “I welcome the first stage of the redevelopment of this valuable asset in Whitekirk and look forward to the leisure facilities and employment opportunities it will provide.

“This can only bring economic benefits to the North Berwick and East Linton area.”