A COMMUNITY bid to turn a former council depot into a hub for all ages will be put before Scottish Ministers after it was rejected by East Lothian Council.

North Berwick Community Development Company wants to buy a 1.3-hectare site off the town’s Lime Grove and transform it into a theatre, cafe, cinema and hostel which it says would benefit all ages.

However, it has faced opposition from some neighbours of the land, who described the plans as “fanciful at best”.

North Berwick Coastal Area Partnership formed the Lime Grove Asset Transfer Group three years ago to oversee bringing the site, described as the last piece of brownfield land in the town, into community ownership.

This led to the establishment of the community development group, which has more than 1,200 members, to buy the 1.3-hectare site from owners East Lothian Council.

The local authority, however, rejected the bid to bring the site into community ownership amid concerns about the business plan, and last week its own review committee upheld the decision.

The four-strong petitions and community empowerment review committee voted by three votes to one to reject the asset transfer bid.

Local ward councillor Jane Henderson, who sits on the committee was replaced for the meeting by fellow Conservative councillor Lachlan Bruce.

Councillor Henderson attended in her role as a ward councillor but did not take part in the vote.

Mr Bruce joined committee members Councillor Willie Innes and Councillor John McMillan in rejecting the proposal.

Councillor Stuart Currie supported the plans.

The community development company, says that work on its appeal to the Scottish Government is already under way.

Lesley Kay, chair of the Lime Grove Asset Transfer Group and a director of the community development company, said: “‘It was really disappointing that  East Lothian Council did not approve the request for the community to take over the Lime Grove site, particularly given the amount of community support.

“We are convinced that we have good grounds for appeal.

“This is the last chance for the community to buy the land through the asset transfer process and we hope that we will be successful, so we can bring much-needed facilities to the community.”

The community development company has been advised by the Community Ownership Support Service, a Scottish Government-funded programme, in its bid to take over the site for the town.

Opponents of the community hub, who insist they are not ‘NIMBYs’, say their concerns have been ignored by supporters of the project and the impact on their homes was not considered.

They added: “In our opinion, the proposal is a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to save a piece of land the existence of which is unknown to many folk in the town.”

And they said: “We would like to stress this is not about us being ‘NIMBYs’ as we would have welcomed a social enterprise option for the site or, preferably, a health sector solution, but most importantly one which offers long-term sustainability and is right for the site and location.”

The council is due to formally issue its decision in the next four weeks, when the company will be able to lodge an appeal with Scottish Ministers.