A DECISION to turn down plans for a controversial care village on the outskirts of North Berwick has been welcomed by community representatives.

Goldcrest Communities Ltd were refused planning permission for a site at Castleton Farm, to the east of the town, by East Lothian Council in December last year.

The developers took their proposals for 152 residential accommodation and care units for people in need of care and a community hub to the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division.

However, last Wednesday, reporter Mike Shiel announced the appeal was dismissed and planning permission refused.

Mr Shiel said there were “no material considerations which would justify granting planning permission”.

The decision was welcomed by politicians and community groups, with many highlighting the strength of feeling in the town against the proposed development.

Paul McLennan, East Lothian's MSP, was among those pleased with the decision, describing the proposal as "the wrong development in the wrong place".

He said: "Our Covid recovery will of course require development in East Lothian.

"This application and appeal process has shown that development on this scale must be done in aid of the wellbeing of the whole community and with full consideration of the environmental impact of any work.

"During the election campaign I got to know some of the campaigners on this matter.

"They were steadfast in their principled opposition to this development and succeeded in creating a grassroots campaign.

"They should be proud of their work."

READ MORE: Plans for care village rejected for the second time

Martin Whitfield, South Scotland MSP, echoed the comment of Mr McLennan.

He said: “I’m delighted that the Reporter has reached this decision and upheld East Lothian Council’s rejection of the care village application.

“There was no doubt that the vast majority of local residents opposed the proposal and the community will be relieved that the application has now been dismissed.

“After so many previous appeals having gone the wrong way in the past, it’s good to see the system working the way it should and reflecting public opinion on this proposed development.

“I also commend everyone who campaigned against the proposal for standing up for their community and succeeding in stopping the application.”

Fellow South Scotland MSP Craig Hoy was also pleased with the decision.

The Haddington and Lammermuir ward councillor said: "This is a victory and a huge relief for local residents and campaigners.

"While East Lothian needs more facilities for older people, Castleton Farm was clearly not the right location for a retirement village.

"I would also like to see the SNP Government follow the policy of the Scottish Conservatives and announce an end of appeals to the Scottish Reporter.

"Planning decisions should be taken locally and should be subject to local democratic controls and accountability.”

Members of the community spoke out against the proposed care village on the outskirts of North Berwick

Members of the community spoke out against the proposed care village on the outskirts of North Berwick

Plans for the care village date back to 2018 and were met with strong opposition by a number of residents.

The proposals also prompted the formation of Save NB Views, who fought for the scheme to be turned down.

More than 500 representations were received against the planning application, with just three in favour.

The £49 million scheme was turned down unanimously by members of East Lothian Council's planning committee, with the developers then taking their plans to the Scottish Government.

A spokesman for the developer declined to comment on the latest decision.

The development would have been made up of 20 two and three-bedroom detached bungalows, with the independent living units comprising 66 two-bedroom flats in three two-and-a-half-story buildings, plus a further 28 one and two-bedroom flats on the basement and ground floor levels of the main central building, described as the 'village centre'.

This would have been a building of two to three storeys around a central courtyard, with 38 assisted living units on the first floor.

Other facilities proposed at the development included a restaurant and bar, as well as swimming pool, gym and spa, which would have been open to the public.

Mr Shiel prepared a 25-page report on the prospect of the care village.

READ MORE: A decision on the proposed care village was previously delayed

Throwing out the appeal, the reporter described an argument that the development should be allowed in the rural setting because it was meeting a need for specialist housing as “unhelpful”.

Rejecting the argument by Goldcrest, the reporter ruled that, specialist or not, “the principal element of the development is clearly housing”.

The reporter also noted the "very substantial" number of representations from members of the public and also North Berwick's community council.

He said: "A further 114 representations have been received in relation to this appeal, with all but one objecting to the proposal.

"There is, thus, is a very substantial body of objection, especially as the development does not directly impact on many residents.

"Although not determinative of the decision, I consider that this level of opposition to the proposal should carry some weight."

Angela Paterson, who set up Save NB Views, was hopeful the decision marked "the end of the story".

She said: "On behalf of the community, I'm totally delighted.

"The group has worked incredibly hard and collaborated well to try to fight this off.

"It kept getting extended and extended but we stuck with it and made sure we did our background checking, got everything well organised and the reporter came good at the end of the day.

"To be honest, I would have been surprised if they found any other outcome with North Berwick Community Council, local councillors and community so against it.

"It would have been very difficult for him to approve it."

READ MORE: The proposed care village was opposed by many members of the community

Judy Lockhart-Hunter, chair of North Berwick Community Council (NBCC), said: "NBCC were pleased to receive the news that the appeal for a care village at Castleton Farm was rejected by the Scottish Government.

"The decision to reject planning consent in favour of protecting our countryside around town was the right decision.

"NBCC held an extraordinary public meeting in February 2020 to discuss this application and hundreds of local residents attended.

"The strength of feeling against the application across the town was huge and we were proud to represent the views of our community by unanimously standing against the proposal; in our role as statutory consultees to East Lothian Council for planning.

"A tremendous amount of work was undertaken in relation to this application by NBCC and I would particularly like to take this opportunity to thank community councillor Christiane Maher who leads our planning segments for all the work she put in.

"We were also supported by Save NB Views who ran a great campaign against the application. This is a great example of communities taking action together and achieving what is right for our town."

Local councillor Jeremy Findlay welcomed the decision.

He said: "The Scottish reporters rejection of Goldcrest’s appeal is very welcome and a vindication of East Lothian Council’s planning committee, of which I am a member, rejection of this speculative application.

"It is also a testament to all those in North Berwick who campaigned against this unwanted blot on our landscape. My thanks go out to them as it is public pressure that really had the greatest impact."