A DECISION on a planning appeal to turn The Quay in Musselburgh into a private nursing home is expected at the end of February.

The ruling on the proposal to convert the former leisure complex, restaurant and function suites into a 40-bed care facility is eagerly awaited. Opponents are keen to explore the idea of a community buyout of the building.

Amanda Chisholm, the independent reporter determining the case on behalf of Scottish Ministers, carried out an inspection of the site at Fisherrow Harbour last September.

Lodged by Simply Musselburgh Care Limited, the appeal followed East Lothian Council’s refusal of the plan.

A meeting of the planning committee last June regarding The Quay, owned by Dr Charan Gill, ended with a near-unanimous decision to turn down the nursing home proposal.

Only Councillor Norman Hampshire, planning committee convener, backed council officials’ recommendation to approve the plan. Local groups including Musselburgh and Inveresk Community Council, Musselburgh Area Partnership and Musselburgh Conservation Society among others, have called for the appeal to be thrown out.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told the Courier: “This appeal has been under consideration by an independent planning reporter in order to determine the case on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

“The reporter expects her decision on this case to be issued in the coming months.”

David Wilkie, chairman of Fisherrow Harbour and Seafront Association, said: “The sooner we hear, the sooner we know what we are going to be doing.

“If it doesn’t resolve in favour of the current owner then we would want to see whether we could pull together enough interest for some kind of community buyout or community-based funding programme to buy.

“If we can do that, there are all sorts of different ways money can come out of central government to assist community buyout.”

He said that the association had met people in the local business community and a group of former politicians to discuss ideas, adding that The Quay was “a focal point” of the whole of the harbour and seafront area.

Mr Wilkie said the association was progressing negotiations with the council to take over responsibility for development of the harbour and seafront area as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

As such it could apply for funding sources such as the Common Good Fund, Big Lottery and National Heritage.

He added: “The opportunity is to have a local group of local people organised to develop local issues, that then has the capacity and authority from the council to go ahead and develop that whole area.

“That’s the vision and into that has been dropped The Quay as a prime site which we would like to see developed for the good of the community.

“A private nursing home would not really represent something that was in the best interests of the broader community and that was the reason we got involved in objecting to the planning permission in the first place.”

The Quay could, he suggested, be used for community purposes to generate employment.

He said the Eskmuthe Rowing Club was looking for premises and the gym at The Quay could also be retained.

Max Blinkhorn, senior instructor at Fisherrow Yacht Club, agreed that The Quay had “tremendous potential”, adding: “Fisherrow Harbour could become a destination.

“People could come down, for example walk down a boardwalk perhaps from Portobello and have a lovely evening in the sunset, get fish and chips, have a coffee.”

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “Negotiations into transferring the management of Fisherrow Harbour to the Fisherrow Harbour and Seafront Association are advancing.

“Working with Fisherrow Harbour and Seafront Association would enable the area to benefit from grant funding that is outwith the scope of local authority access.”