A SPACE firm's bid to ground-test rocket engines on the former Cockenzie Power Station site in East Lothian has been rejected by councillors.

Skyrora's bid to set up a base on the former coal handling plant at Port Seton had caused a division between neighbouring community councils and saw nearly 170 objections lodged with East Lothian Council.

And at a meeting of the local authority's planning committee today (Wednesday), the proposal was rejected against the advice of council officials after planning convenor Councillor Norman Hampshire branded the development a "bad neighbour".

Mr Hampshire told fellow committee members that he was concerned that allowing Skyrora to test rockets on the land, which is central to the council's future economic plans, could put other investors off.

He said: "This is not a good neighbour  – it is a bad neighbour development and my concern is this may deter potential investors from taking on development at the Cockenzie site."

Skyrora had lodged an application to create a rocket engine testing site on the land, which is owned by the local authority, with plans to carry out five 30-second tests each month.

But while they applied for temporary use of the site for five years, they told the planning committee they envisaged the possibility of not just expanding their presence in the community but potentially bringing a manufacturing facility, described as the size of an Ikea outlet, to Cockenzie.

And while Prestonpans Community Council, which lies on the boundary of the site, supported their move as offering potential for jobs and the economy, Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council objected.

At the planning committee meeting this week, Bryan Hickman, from Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council, pointed to a public meeting which had seen between 300 and 400 people turn out.

He said: "Virtually everyone who was there was against it ranging from our youngest residents to pensioners. The feeling, rightly or wrongly, in the community is that they do not want it."

During the planning meeting local residents raised concerns about the storage of key elements of fuel on the site  for days prior to testing as well as the impact of burning kerosene into the atmosphere.

While Skyrora insisted the engine tests would be a "clean burn" producing mainly water, resident and biochemist Dr Brian Hall told the committee that he estimated around 420,000 litres of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide could be released during each 30 second test.

Calum Miller, on behalf of Prestonpans Community Council, urged councillors to approve the plans pointing out that the power station site had lain empty now for six years.

He told them: "The council has the opportunity with this Skyrora application to dispel the myth that we are too remote from Edinburgh to attract business."

However ward councillors Fiona O'Donnell, Lachlan Bruce and Neil Gilbert all refused to vote in favour of planning approval.

Councillor O'Donnell said that the impact on local amenity would be unacceptable and spoke of the "high level of public concern" from constituents about the proximity of the test site to housing – the nearest of which was estimated at 200 metres away.

The plans were rejected by six councillors to two.