A PRIVATE care home next to a graveyard and a neighbouring budget hotel have been given the go-ahead, despite questions about whether they were suitable “bedfellows”.

East Lothian Council’s planning committee today (Tuesday) approved plans by developer Frontier Estates to build the new ventures in North Berwick, despite concerns raised by the town’s GPs, community council and local businesses.

The £13 million project will create more than 100 jobs.

The new 70-bed care home and 65-bedroom hotel, described as a ‘branded budget’ style, will sit side by side on a site just west of the town's Tesco store, off Tantallon Road, which is currently the home of long-established car sales and garage business James Mitchell Cars. There will also be 65 parking spaces for the hotel and 25 for the care home.

The developer said that it had identified a need for more care home beds in the town, which has a higher than average older population, and revealed it was in "active discussions" with potential operators but was not revealing any names at this stage.

"We have competitive interest in both stages of the site," the developer said.

Frontier Estates' website says it has completed hotel developments in Watford, Hatfield, Enfield, Birmingham, Slough and Milton Keynes, and operators have included Jurys Inn, Travelodge and Premier Inn.

However, the planning committee was told that East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, which provide council care placements, had said it would not be taking any beds in the new home and had lodged objections to the plans.

The partnership is currently carrying out a long-term plan to redevelop care in the ward with a new style of extra-care housing developments.

It said: “The partnership is of the view there is sufficient care home provision in East Lothian to meet the needs of older people.”

One ward councillor told colleagues that every elderly person was equal to six young patients in the time required by the local GP service.

Councillor Jeremy Findlay said that the care home “would be like adding an extra 400 patients to the GP centre”.

He added: “These are not my words but the words of the doctors at the surgery.”

Fellow ward councillor Jane Henderson pointed to the location of the site, which is next to a cemetery, local ‘tip’ and Tesco store.

She added: “People have to co-exist but is putting a hotel and care home on the same site suitable bedfellows?”

Sue Northrop, on behalf of North Berwick Community Council, also questioned the site.

She said: “It is not acceptable to build a care home next to a graveyard, a dump, a delivery site and bus station. This is a place where people come to live and die.”

Local GP Dr Claire Doldon, from North Berwick Group Practice, said the surgery already dedicated a full day a week to visiting the existing two care homes in North Berwick and one nursing home, and the new home would require a further half day of “dedicated doctor time”.

She told the committee: “Five out of six of our consultants in the practice are within five years of retiring.

“This practice may have to hand its list back to the health board if these issues are not resolved.”

Local B&B owner Sean McCashey, who runs Signals Bistro on North Berwick's Quality Street, also made a plea to the committee to reject the plans for the budget hotel.

He said: “North Berwick has over 100 hotel beds and over 180 beds on Airbnb.

“We now rely on a busy summer season to fund the winter months.”

Mr McCashey pointed out that a number of small hotels in the town had closed in recent times, adding: “Nether Abbey and Signals are the last two small hotels standing in North Berwick.”

Despite the pleas from the community, planning committee members voted by seven to three to grant planning permission after they were advised by their officers that none of the concerns raised could be considered “planning considerations”.

Councillor Fiona O’Donnell, who also serves as chairperson of East Lothian Integration Joint Board which oversees the health and social care partnership, voted to approve the plans, saying she did so with a “heavy heart”.

Expressing frustration at the planning policy’s failure to take into account issues such as health services, she said: “In terms of health and social care, this is the wrong decision for East Lothian and North Berwick, but I know I have to respond to this application as a planning committee member.

“I hope when we review planning policy for Scotland someone is thinking about joining up important policies.”

Duncan Ford, development director at Frontier Estates, had previously said that both the hotel and care home were scheduled to open in 2021.

He had also stated that there was an agreement to buy out James Mitchell Cars from its current premises.