THE battle to see new life breathed into a historic building at the heart of Dunbar is continuing, with a petition drawn up urging residents to back plans to turn the building into flats.

Alexander Williamson’s attempts to see the vacant areas of the Dunbar Assembly Rooms, which dates back nearly 200 years, turned into four flats were rejected by East Lothian Council’s planning committee in March.

An appeal to Scottish Ministers is being drawn up, while a petition has been launched urging members of the public to back the proposal, which developers claim is “the only course of action left”.

The petition, which developers hope will show public support for the plans, has already been signed by nearly 300 people.

It notes that the building was bought at auction in 1997, with permission in place for nine flats. But the planning consent lapsed in 1999, which “started a long journey over many years and countless sleepless nights worrying for the safety of the residents living below”.

The petition notes: “Unless we successfully lobby Scottish Ministers with our appeal, my parents’ 24-year battle to regenerate this building could be lost.

“Dunbar’s town centre regeneration will continue to be held back in favour of large out-of-town developments, risking the lives and livelihoods of local people, while we watch historic buildings deteriorate beyond repair.

“You don’t need to look far in Dunbar to see the effects neglect has had on our history.

“Thankfully, over the past 24 years, we have managed to maintain the structure of the Assembly Rooms, keeping a roof above the three basement flats below.

“This has not come without expense and eventually the 200-year-old roof will need removed if not replaced.

“This building is older than some of Dunbar’s most iconic landmarks – nearly 30 years older than Abbey Church on High Street, for example.

“To put this into perspective, the Assembly Rooms date back to 1822, the same year as King George IV visited Scotland (the first reigning monarch to set foot on Scottish soil for two centuries), three years after Queen Victoria was born, some 22 years before the Victoria Harbour in Dunbar, which was started in 1844.

“Please give us your support in order that we can challenge the decision of our local councillors, bring life back to this building and remove an eyesore from Church Street.”

The planning committee saw councillors split over whether the scheme, which was supported by the town’s community council, should go ahead.

Ward councillor Norman Hampshire, who is the planning committee convenor, highlighted parking difficulties as being behind the reason for him opting to vote to refuse the application, despite planning officials recommending it be approved.

The petition is at