DISMAY has been voiced over East Lothian Council’s decision to commission a feasibility report on the building of a potential cruise terminal on the site of the former Cockenzie Power Station.

The debate, at a meeting of Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council, culminated in an accusation of East Lothian councillors “leaking private information” to interested parties before closed meetings.

The site is set to be home to an electrical substation run by offshore company Inch Cape Offshore Ltd after such a development was approved by a Scottish Government reporter.

It is claimed that that will only cover roughly 10 per cent of the land, and the decision of what the local authority – which owns the land – should do with the rest of it has been a matter of intense debate for neighbouring communities.

Prestonpans Community Council supports the building of a cruise terminal there but their counterparts in Cockenzie and Port Seton do not believe that that plan would create sufficient jobs.

Shona Brash, head of the Greenhills community group which wants to see the local authority masterplan for the site implemented instead, attended the community council meeting and told ward councillors Fiona O’Donnell and Neil Gilbert that the decision to commission the report had “created a level of distrust from the people of Cockenzie in their local council and councillors as it had happened against the will of the community they represented”.

She added: “The cruise terminal isn’t included in the masterplan. It feels like the council are kneeling to the demands of Prestonpans, rather than taking interest in the rest of the community.”

East Lothian Council was granted £150,000 to create the masterplan that was produced when initially consulting the public on what to do with the land.

The cruise terminal is mentioned in the masterplan, but the conclusion in that document states that although it is “technically feasible, it would require substantial front-end investment… potentially several hundred million pounds. In addition, it is not clear whether there would be a sufficient market hinterland to sustain a port at Cockenzie”.

Councillor Gilbert responded to the accusation by saying: “It is the public duty of the landowner to investigate all possibilities. The report on the cruise terminal is a feasibility report only.”

Councillor O’Donnell added: “The masterplan is not sufficient to assess the feasibility of the port, nor is the masterplan concrete. But as stated, the report is only a report, it is in no way any indication of a formal decision.”

As to a question of how Prestonpans Community Council appeared to have information on the commissioning of the report before it happened, Ms O’Donnell said: “I have no idea how they knew. The meeting was one of the rare ones we do in private. If there is a concern that information is getting out ahead of private meetings, an internal investigation should be held.

“The council is not prioritising the interests of one group over another.”

Calum Miller, a Prestonpans Community Councillor accused of knowing privileged information, told the Courier: “The paranoia of some individuals in Cockenzie and Port Seton is palpable. They are simply too used to getting their own way and when things happen that these individuals can’t control, they see a grand conspiracy in every corner. I’m not a member of any political party. I am not a member of East Lothian Council. I don’t have access to, and I can’t influence the council agenda. I’m not a paid lobbyist by anyone. I don’t receive any remuneration for representing anyone. I represent Prestonpans Community Council and nobody else.

“Some people won’t accept that explanation; that is their problem rather than mine.”