A BID to turn a former bank hall into a home by offering to provide a pop-up space for local businesses to use has been branded ‘chicanery’ by objectors.

The former Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) hall in North Berwick has been at the centre of a bid by new owners to create a home on the site since it was closed two years ago and sold by the financial institute.

However, the hall is an extension to a Category B-listed building which would have been the bank manager’s home at one point, and listed building consent was needed to change it, as well as planning permission.

Both were refused by East Lothian Council’s planning department, and appeals failed.

Now, owners have appealed to the council’s Local Review Body for a second time after an alternative proposal to demolish the hall and build a home, which would use the basement and first floor as a private residence and provide space in the ground floor for ‘pop-up’ businesses such as a gallery or yoga studio, was also refused.

Among concerns raised by planners was the loss of commercial space in the seaside town centre.

The latest application saw 20 objections from local residents, who argued no attempt had been made to market the building for commercial use and the pop-up plan was an attempt to “minimally satisfy” planning officers.

One objector said: “This chicanery is ultimately a bad faith gesture designed to circumvent policy.”

Another complained that a report on its viability as a commercial property compared the building, on Westgate, to office space in Tranent, Musselburgh and Ormiston, adding: “Anyone involved in property would not reasonably expect returns/rent ot be the same in these towns as in North Berwick, which commands a premium.”

North Berwick Community Council objected to the plans, stating there was a clear demand for office and business space on the town’s High Street.

Planning permission was refused on the grounds of the loss of commercial space and impact of proposed new build on the character of the area and amenity. The appeal goes before the Local Review Body next month.