A WATER lover's paradise could be created as part of ambitious plans being drawn up for a 'carbon neutral zone' covering a large part of East Lothian.

A water park, with the opportunity to swim and kayak, is part of the proposals revealed by the local authority with a series of images also unveiled.

The proposed ClimatEvolution Zone would cover the under-construction town of Blindwells and surrounding communities stretching from Prestonpans to Longniddry and inland to Tranent and Macmerry.

East Lothian Council is petitioning the Scottish Government to extend the National Development status given to the former Cockenzie Power Station site in its National Planning Framework (NPF3) document to a wider area in its planned revised framework (NPF4) which is under review.

This could pave the way for the creation of the ClimatEvolution Zone which could transform the area over the next 30 years through innovative approaches to development.

A public consultation on the vision has been launched by the council and breaks the plans down into different themes from environment to travel. 

It asks people to give their views on its approach to a wide range of issues including access and movement; the water environment; culture, heritage and leisure; greenspace and biodiversity; strong communities; and regeneration and enterprise.

However, the vision has already come under fire from Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council which branded it “complex and unclear”.

The community council warned that the launch of a new vision for the area three years after the local authority produced its Cockenzie Masterplan document – which it has never adopted – would leave the public with no confidence in the planning system.

East Lothian Council paid consultants to produce the Cockenzie Masterplan for the former Cockenzie Power Station site, which it owns, after a series of public consultations in 2016 but the report remains an informal “visionary document”.

Now the former power station site could be merged into the new ClimatEvolution Zone with no reference to the original masterplan.

Bryan Hickman, community council chairman, said: “The community council are very concerned by the documents recently published by the council.

"We understood that the changes required for NPF4 related to the former power station site.

"The lengthy report now extends to Tranent, Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton, Longniddry and Blindwells as well as the power station site.

"Whilst some of the objectives are to be welcomed, the overall content is complex and unclear and includes such a large area as to be unmanageable in its detail.

“The existing communities have been consulted on the power station site and the result was a masterplan commissioned by the council but not adopted by them.

"We have submitted this masterplan to be included in NPF4.

"A number of consultations have taken place in our area and they have come to nothing.

"The feeling is the residents have lost confidence in the system.”

Neighbouring Prestonpans Community Council also raised concerns about the consultation.

Brian Weddell, chairman, questioned whether the proposed train station in the new plan would ever happen, saying: “There has been no meaningful consultation with local communities who all have concerns about the impact of this development on their communities.”

The new consultation is based around a study, drawn up in partnership with East Lothian Council, the Scottish Government, The Lothian Drainage Partnership, SEPA, Scottish Water and Scottish Natural Heritage.

It considers how the council can take the opportunity of creating a new town at Blindwells and harness the latest technologies to reduce the area’s carbon footprint.

Among the ideas up for discussion is using groundwater at Blindwells to create waterways and using natural geothermic energy to heat the outdoor water features.

Douglas Proudfoot, project leader, said the idea behind the new water features was to avoid putting pipes underground to remove groundwater and utilise it instead as the new town of Blindwells develops on the former opencast coal site of the same name between Longniddry and Tranent.

The first houses are due to be built later this year.

He said: “We have a unique opportunity here with a blank canvas for a new town at a time when climate change is central to policies.

"I also think the Covid-19 pandemic has driven forward the idea that people can work from home and find alternative ways to work with the support of digital technology.”

Central to the vision is alternative ways to travel with an emphasis on walkways and cycle routes.

A new train station at a central hub within an area the council has dubbed Greater Blindwells will provide additional access to public transport.

To the north of the central hub between Cockenzie and Port Seton and Longniddry there are proposals for a water park or outdoor leisure area with the potential to create a lido with space for kayaking and other water sports.

At the former Cockenzie Power Station site, less than half-a-mile away, a new centre of excellence is proposed described as a training school and “exemplar development in modular manufacture and construction”.

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray welcomed the ambitious strategy.

He said: “The Cockenzie and Blindwells sites are adjacent to one another and it has always been inevitable that their development will be closely linked, so it makes sense to seek to extend National Development status to Blindwells.

“The whole area offers unique potential to transform these former industrial sites into places where people can live and work in a sustainable way.”

Kenny MacAskill, East Lothian MP, also welcomed the project which will ‘interact’ with neighbouring communities.

He said: “The area is a far wider community and cannot be seen in isolation.

The inclusion of adjacent communities is therefore essential.”

Councillor Norman Hampshire stressed the proposals are not a ‘finalised masterplan’ but rather a “high level document which sets out an ambitious vision for the area over the coming 30 years”.

He said: “It’s an exciting opportunity to ensure that one of the key areas of East Lothian, is developed in an innovative way.

"It’s not all about what’s new, though.

"We are looking at enhancing the existing local environment and making the most of the area’s unique history as well as its mining and agricultural heritage and the site of the Battle of Prestonpans.”

The council launched its eightweek consultation on its online hub on Monday.

The Scottish Government is revising its National Development Planning Framework which gives an overview of what it wants to see develop on key sites across Scotland.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are grateful for the many views and ideas received in response to early engagement on National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

Our analysis of the responses is underway and will continue over the summer, and we expect to publish an update in the autumn.”

The council consultation can be found at eastlothianconsultations.co.uk