DISCUSSIONS surrounding proposals to revamp Haddington’s town centre will be held behind closed doors next month.

East Lothian Council is working on designs that would see the parking provision changed in the town, including the possibility of a 200-plus-space long-stay car park on the town’s Whittingehame Drive.

However, town centre traders are concerned about the possibility of spaces being lost on High Street and Market Street, with it also being mooted that the long-stay car park at Tesco, which is used by many people working in the town centre, could become short-stay only.

The issue was briefly mentioned at the town’s community council meeting last Tuesday evening.

Usually, these meetings are open to the public and the press; however, it was agreed to cut short next month’s meeting to allow community councillors to discuss the controversial plans in private.

Jan Wilson, the group’s long-standing chairwoman, said: “I’m not sure how much can be made public at the moment.

“I know community council meetings should be public but there are times when I have to say no because the proposals are not set in stone yet. It would be stupid of me to say ‘this could happen’ or ‘that could happen’ when it might not.”

According to East Lothian Council the plans are still at “the initial stage”. However, the local authority has stressed it is aiming to “enhance parking provision in such a way that the number of available spaces in Haddington is increased beyond current levels and that better use is made of each space”.

Currently, Haddington town centre is home to more than 500 spaces.

The long-stay car park at Tesco has 137 spaces, which includes two disabled and car club spaces and four public electric charge spaces.

On the opposite side of Court Street, the car park at East Lothian Council’s headquarters, John Muir House, has 250 spaces.

The majority of those – 215 – are long stay but the car park is reserved for “council-based activities” between 8am and 5pm throughout the week and is only available to the general public at the weekend and outwith those times.

Proposals suggest a revamp of High Street, which has 74 spaces; Market Street, which has 48 spaces; Hardgate, which has four spaces; and Court Street, which can accommodate 36 cars.

Meanwhile, 151 town centre residents have parking permits, which enable them to park in any of the restricted 90-minute maximum parking areas for any duration.

East Lothian Council has not revealed the number of spaces – or the site – for any proposed car park at Whittingehame Drive, although it has been suggested as having between 200 and 250 spaces.

Liz McDougall, chairwoman of the Nungate Gala committee, told the Courier that the council had not been in touch about the proposals.

She was concerned about the impact it could have on their gala activities. Andshe questioned if the local authority were “trying to slide it in the back door” and said: “We have never heard anything from the council.

“I was told about it from another colleague and then I spoke to Moira Graham, of Graham the Jeweller, and she was telling me about it and saying this was going to happen.I’m not exactly thrilled about the idea to be honest simply because this is going to cause a lot of issues for the gala.”

The new car park would need a planning application to progress.

Ward councillor Craig Hoy, who lives in the town, said: “I welcome plans for significant long-stay parking facilities at Whittingehame Drive and have been pressing for action in this area.

“This could be the missing piece of the jigsaw which allows us to press ahead with investment to enhance the town centre, overcoming very valid concerns about a net loss of parking. This development – along with the plans to revitalise our High Street – will give a much-needed boost to Haddington.”