A HOUSING charity which was refused permission to build affordable homes on vacant land has taken its case to Scottish Ministers.

LAR had applied to build four houses and 22 flats on the land, which is designated for business use, in Prestonpans but, despite a  personal plea from the charity’s chief executive, East Lothian councillors rejected the plans.

The planning committee took the decision despite being told that  the local authority had tried to buy the site for housing itself just two years ago.

Now LAR, which had already invested £40,000 preparing plans for the site after it was told that the council would consider a change of use, has appealed to the Scottish Government.

In its appeal, the charity, which was set up in 2015 to build affordable housing in Scotland, said: “Although there is no shortfall in the all-tenure five-year housing supply in East Lothian, there is a very large shortfall in meeting the actual need for affordable housing.

“In our view, the ‘tilted balance’ of consideration is towards allowing affordable housing on this site, rather than preserving a vacant and non-viable business site.”

Chief executive Ann Leslie had appealed to the planning committee in March to give the plans for the site at Mid Road the green light, revealing that out of 600 homes built or under construction by the charity since it began, 104 had been in East Lothian and there were currently 80 people on its waiting list to move into one in the county.

But planning officers urged councillors to reject LAR’s proposals, regardless of the council’s own efforts to build housing there two years ago.

Iain McFarlane, head of planning, said that two years ago the council did not have its Local Development Plan approved and faced a shortage of land for affordable housing.

Now the plan had been adopted, he said there was sufficient land supply for the next five years.

He said allowing housing on the site, which has lain empty for nearly 13 years, would set an “undesirable precedent”, adding it would be “selling our employment plans down the river”.

The committee rejected the plans by six votes to three.