A DEAL to sell part of the former Cockenzie Power Station site to offshore wind power firm Inch Cape to build a substation has been agreed by owners East Lothian Council.

However, the size of the site which has been set aside is understood to be less than a third of the land originally proposed by the company.

The local authority has announced that it has signed an options agreement with Inch Cape for a “small part” of the former power station site, which is understood to be about seven acres of the 230-acre site.

It has also agreed to the land used being to the far west of the site originally planned and set back from the coastline.

Inch Cape won planning permission to build the substation, which will bring energy onshore from an offshore wind farm, earlier this year after Scottish Ministers controversially called in the planning application and granted approval.

The original plans from Inch Cape cover a wider 25-acre site on the land on an area which was part of the footprint of the former power station itself.

Concerns raised about the impact it would have on developing the rest of the site, which was purchased by East Lothian Council from ScottishPower last March, had been raised, as well as the visual impact on the coast.

Inch Cape has consistently pledged to reduce the size of the substation, which will be remotely operated, to as small a footprint as possible.

The reduced site was welcomed by East Lothian MSP Iain Gray, who had opposed the planning decision being take out of local authority hands.

He said: “However, with permission for the substation granted by ministers, this is a good outcome, with the size of the construction significantly reduced and the actual site moved away from the waterfront.

“East Lothian Council has minimised the area they had to sell, and hopefully that means progress can now be made on finding the right opportunity to create jobs and boost the local economy.”

Bryan Hickman, chairman of Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council, which opposed the site during the Scottish Government Reporter’s enquiry,  said:  “Inch Cape have consistently consulted with us on all matters relating to this application. We look forward to seeing a final plan showing the overall design.”

However, Brian Weddell, chairman of neighbouring Prestonpans Community Council, which also opposed the substation, raised concerns about the decision to sell the land and its long-term future.

Prestonpans Community Council is lobbying for a cruise terminal to be based at the site.

Mr Weddell said: “It remains the view of the Prestonpans community that the transformer is heading for the wrong location.

“However, we recognise that construction is going ahead regardless and we need to plan for the future.

“We welcome the smaller footprint and believe the cruise ship terminal could easily be accommodated on the adjacent site.

“We are concerned about the sale of this valuable site and the loss of public ownership; what happens in 30 years when the wind farm is decommissioned?”

Monica Patterson, depute chief executive of East Lothian Council, said: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement which will enable a substantially smaller area of the western site to be purchased from the council.

“This means significant land will remain available for opportunities to boost the local economy and create employment opportunities.”

Guy Madgwick, CEO of Red Rock Power, which owns Inch Cape, told the Courier: “This is a key milestone for the Inch Cape project and a significant step forward in our plans to deliver a project with such national economic importance as well as contributing significantly to Scotland’s renewable energy targets.” 

The purchase of the site will follow the progression of the Inch Cape Offshore Wind Farm project as a whole.

Further details of the option agreement are commercially confidential at this stage.