THE gloves are off in the battle to name East Lothian’s newest town as developers confirm that the first of the 1,600 phase one homes will be built at the start of next year.

In the next decade and beyond, up to 6,000 new homes and community facilities are expected to be built on the former Blindwells Opencast Mine site between Tranent and Longniddry.

But while the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust is petitioning East Lothian Council to name the new settlement Charlestoun in honour of Bonnie Prince Charles – the victor of the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans – the case for the town retaining its Blindwells name, honouring the county’s mining heritage, is gaining support.

Yet the Courier has been told that East Lothian Council, which is set to have the final say on the naming of the new settlement, does not want the town to be called Blindwells, with some senior council figures said to hold the view that the name – and the industry it is synonymous with – is not the best way to promote a new and vibrant 21st century community.

The council is to ask school pupils from the surrounding area to help pick a new name for the town and, at present, it is believed that Blindwells is not on the list of possible names that has been drawn up.

The Battle Trust has lodged a petition with the council calling for the town to be called Charlestoun and recognition given to the important role the land played in the Jacobites’ victory over Government soldiers there in 1745.

Plans for a history centre recognising the battle are being considered for the new town.

However, Tranent community councillor Robert McNeill described any move to scrap the Blindwells name as “sacrilege”, saying that local residents wanted the history of the mine, and the land’s previous use as a farm of that name, to be recognised.

The former Labour councillor said: “Blindwells is part of our local history in Tranent, representing the main industries that created our local community: farming and coal.

“Now that the development of the site will finally go ahead, it will be a reminder of our local heritage, as they say from the dust a new town will rise called Blindwells.

“To even consider changing the name would be sacrilege.”

Land owners Hargreaves confirmed they had been in talks with the council and the Battle Trust about the future town.

But they said while the name Blindwells could feature in street names and community facilities, it was unlikely to be the town’s title.

Iain Slater, property development manager, said Hargreaves was determined to mark the history of the land, adding: “Creating a sense of place is top of our agenda.”

However, he revealed that the council had been clear to them that Blindwells would not be the town’s new name.

He said: “Locally it will always be Blindwells but there seems to be a view from some of the older members of the council that it has to get away from that name.

“Blindwells should still feature in some form – whether it is the name of the town centre or main street, it still has a place – but the town will have a new name.”

Plans to create a new town at the site of the former mine have been under discussion for more than 20 years.

The Battle Trust has petitioned the council for the site to be called Charlestoun and called for funds from developers to be set aside to create “Scotland’s first equestrian sculpture of the prince”.

Groundwork at the first section of the site for development has been completed by Hargreaves and applications for detailed planning permission for the first houses are expected to be lodged by house-building firms within the next month.

Cruden Homes, which is expected to be first to build on the site, plans to put a mixture of affordable, social and mid market housing on the land initially, with builders Bellway expected to follow.

Talks have been held between the trust, Hargreaves and the council to identify a suitable site for a living history centre near the battlefield site to commemorate the historic victory for the Jacobites, with the trust identifying two potential sites to the south east of the Battle Bing or north-west corner of the new settlement.

The petition states: “The new community falls within the nationally designated battlefield of Prestonpans as recorded in the National Inventory by Historic Environment Scotland.”

The petitioners also want to protect and acknowledge the Riggonhead Defile, which runs through the new community. The narrow route through marshlands was used by the Jacobite troops in 1745 to take the Government army by surprise during the battle, after they moved through it during the night.

The re-enactment of the battle sees the ‘Jacobites’ take part in a dawn walk along the Riggonhead Defile to mark the crucial tactic.

The petition calls for the route to be formally named the Riggonhead Defile and interpretation boards to be installed along the path.

The trust said: “The trust believes that by ensuring the commemoration and interpretation of the 1745 battle heritage of the ‘new’ community of Charlestoun, it will greatly assist its social cohesion by giving and honouring a significant ‘sense of place’ for incoming residents that connects strongly to the existing communities in Prestonpans/Cockenzie & Port Seton/Longniddry.”

East Lothian Council’s petitions and community empowerment committee’s next meeting is on September 12, when the petition could be discussed; however, the council is expected to take a list of its preferred potential names to the schools when they return in August.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, depute council leader, said naming a new town was an important decision which would affect future generations.

He said: “This is a new town and the name is important. We will wait to hear what the communities have to say before we make any decision on it.”

Brian Weddell, Prestonpans Community Council chairman, said he was keen to see local schools involved, adding: “Personally, I’d like to see the council ask local schools for suggestions if they are looking to re-name Blindwells like they have done with the amalgamated school in Prestonpans. It is a great way of getting local children to explore the local history of where they live.”

Neighbouring Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council chairman Bryan Hickman, however, added he thought Charlestoun “seems a good name”.

Councillor Colin McGinn, ward councillor for Tranent, said: “It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for youngsters to name a new town. They are the future generation who will live with it so they should name it.”

His view was echoed by Councillor Fiona O’Donnell, ward member for Preston Seton Gosford, who said: “I am pleased that young people will be at the heart of choosing a name for the new town.

“They will live with it much longer than old politicians like me.”

The local authority is responsible for issuing postcodes for new settlements and the decision over the new name is understood to lie with them as well.

Iain Gray, East Lothian MSP, said: “I believe that the naming should be led by a consultation with the existing communities affected by its development and that local people should have a say in making the decision.

“I will certainly be listening to the views of local people over the coming months and feeding that back to the council as it considers the issue.”

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “Development of this site is a chance to create a vibrant new East Lothian community for the 21st century and beyond, featuring affordable homes and opportunities for sustainable growth and employment.

“We recognise there will be significant interest in the character and identity of the new settlement and we look forward to engaging on possible options for its name later this year.”

The first phase of Blindwells – which is expected to take between 12 and 15 years to complete – will include 1,600 houses, with a new primary school, supermarket and business units included in the plans.

It is expected to be followed by a further 1,600 homes, a cemetery and leisure facilities, with the possibility of a secondary school also considered in early proposals.

Land around the current Blindwells site could allow the town to expand eastwards to nearly 6,000 homes if planning permissions are achieved.