A PROPOSED housing development next to an historic castle could lead to a fall in the number of visitors who go there each year, it has been claimed.

Michelle Ballantyne, South Scotland MSP, has written to Scottish housing minister Kevin Stewart MSP urging him to throw out the proposals for the village of Dirleton.

She said the plans, which would see 36 homes built at Castlemains Farm, to the east of Dirleton Castle, could lead to a reduction in the “many tourists” who visit the medieval fortress.

The castle is one of East Lothian’s top five visitor attractions and dates back to the 13th century.

In a letter to Mr Stewart, Conservative Ms Ballantyne said: “Dirleton attracts many tourists, particularly during the summer. The inclusion of a development which is out of step with the rest of the village’s architectural character could cause a reduction in visitor numbers.”

Developer Queensberry Properties Ltd was refused planning permission to build the houses by East Lothian councillors in September. It lodged an appeal with the Scottish Government after councillors voted against the advice of their own planning officers.

In her letter to Mr Stewart, Ms Ballantyne says there is “overwhelming local opposition” to the plans and urges him to fully engage with local residents to ensure their voices are heard.

She said: “71 written objections were lodged with the council and only one representation of support. This matches with what I have seen on the ground. At a street surgery this was the number one issue raised.

“Dirleton is an exceptionally beautiful village with a 13th-century castle of national historic importance. There are few villages such as Dirleton in south Scotland and it would be a shame to rush into a development which could be much more considerate of the surrounding history and community.”