THE member of a community group which opposes a cruise port terminal at the former Cockenzie Power Station site has been accused of behaving “aggressively” towards a councillor over an allegation of East Lothian Council bias.

Ward councillor Fiona O’Donnell was left “shaken and upset” at a Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council’s meeting last Tuesday after a discussion with Greenhills member David Ostler, which culminated in Mr Ostler presenting her with a large lump of coal from Port Seton Harbour.

The community council has been backing plans for a Creative Scotland film studio on the site of the former coal-fired power station and has made complaints in the past about a feasibility study for a cruise terminal being allegedly unfairly favoured.

The debate at last week’s meeting had become heated when Mr Ostler walked over to Ms O’Donnell and presented her with a lump of coal, wrapped in newspaper.

Following the meeting, Ms O’Donnell intimated that her problem was not with the point Mr Ostler was making but how he made it.

She told the Courier: “I know I tried to make light of it after the meeting, but I felt quite shaken and upset.

“I have written to the chair of the community council to make a formal complaint.

“I have spoken to others who were at the meeting and they agree with me that his behaviour was aggressive and threatening.

“He apologised to me at another meeting, saying that ‘it wasn’t personal’, but made no mention of the way in which he approached me.

“Having a man, who was visibly angry, walk across the meeting with an unknown item wrapped in newspaper, and bang down on the table in front of me is, I believe, not acceptable behaviour.”

Explaining the reason for his protest, Mr Ostler said: “If a port is going to be built, water will have to be dredged and there will be massive disturbance to the coal seam that is there. Exposing and dredging the coal seam will lead to coal dust polluting beaches all the way down East Lothian, possibly as far as Dunbar.

“If this port is built, that is what will happen.”

On his allegations of council bias, he said: “The incredibly expensive masterplan that the council did a few years ago said that the port would not be feasible, and yet the council have gone ahead with a study anyway.

“Creative Scotland have shown interest in the land for a film studio and yet no feasibility study has been done for that.

“When I pushed this complaint at a recent Cockenzie Forum meeting, the council eventually agreed to have a meeting with Creative Scotland and, lo and behold, they decide to have it in Haddington during the daytime, so that minimal members of the community can attend.

“The community has been left woefully disadvantaged by this decision.”

This is not the first time an allegation of bias has been raised at the community council’s meetings.

It has been vehemently denied by councillors, who have said that the feasibility study is no specific indication of the council’s intentions.

Following the heated meeting last week, Ms O’Donnell said: “I robustly challenged Mr Ostler’s accusations and will continue to do so.

“I hear the same challenges in more reasonable terms, that we are against a cruise terminal, from others.

“That tells me that we are probably getting it right.

“I told Mr Ostler that I would be attending the briefing from Creative Scotland. He was unhappy with the timing of the meeting and thought this was another example of the council sabotaging a film studio on the site.

“He made the meeting aware of his relationship with contacts in Creative Scotland and I have encouraged him to use that influence to arrange another meeting.”