HOUSING Minister Kevin Stewart MSP was in Cockenzie to help new tenants move in to an affordable housing scheme.

LAR Housing Trust has built 26 new flats at The Boatyard in its first-ever design and build development.

The Boatyard is made up of four one–bedroom apartments, 17 two-bed apartments and five two-bed deluxe apartments, all of which have been filled.

Mr Stewart said: “This is an absolutely cracking housing development which adds to the mix here in Cockenzie. It’s on a spectacular site overlooking the harbour.

“I was here at the very beginning as they were building and was impressed by the amazing views – some of the tenants are going to have a spectacular sight when they open their curtains in the morning.

“I want to ensure that every part of Scotland benefits from what is the biggest housing programme in decades. Obviously, East Lothian is a place which will benefit from the amount of investment we’re making.”

As a tribute to the former boatyard at the site, a stone carving – produced by local sculptor Gardner Molloy – has been installed on the harbour-facing side of the building.

Andrew Robertson, chairman of LAR, highlighted the carving as “absolutely critical” as it tied into the community that used to work there.

He told the Courier: “This sense of community has been very important here because the design reflects the fishing village boatyard nature of the site.”

Mr Robertson hoped that, in future, there could even be some kind of small “maritime museum” there to “reflect some of that boatbuilding history”.

Ann Leslie, CEO of LAR, also confirmed that LAR was building another development at nearby Dolphingstone, which will add to the existing East Lothian LAR developments at Macmerry and Pinkie Mains.

Mr Robertson said that the majority of new tenants at The Boatyard had come from the local area, adding: “It’s lovely. It’s not been explicitly the case. People could have come in from outside.

“The fact that we are actually providing a vehicle for continuity of community is very satisfying. But we wouldn’t want to exclude other people who are in need.”

More than 100 people from the local area applied for the homes before they had even been advertised, but Mr Robertson was keen to point out that the need for affordable housing was not desperate.

“I don’t think there’s a desperate need but it’s an expanding local authority economy,” he said.

“To call it a desperate demand may be slightly overstating it. There are parts of the country where you could go where there is a desperate need for social housing.

“There is social housing here and there’s a responsible housing department and good housing associations and we are working very much as part of that mix. I don’t think anybody is talking about things being desperate.

“There is a need and it’s being met in a controlled and effective way.”

Ward councillor Neil Gilbert was also present at the handing-over of the keys and told the Courier that the development was “extremely important”.

He said: “This is hopefully a step to a lot more of these properties being provided. The level of rent that these facilities house is what East Lothian needs.

“This is a step in the right direction but let’s hope it’s a springboard for a lot more.

“We need as many affordable properties as we can. When I say affordable, I mean social-rent-affordable. The more we have of those the better.”