THE owner of a former bank building which was bought for nearly double the asking price has appealed to East Lothian councillors for a third time to let them turn it into a home, after claiming that its planning history had made it “unsellable”.

Previous bids to turn the former Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) bank hall building, on North Berwick’s Westgate, into a house failed after planners ruled it an unnecessary loss of a commercial unit.

And after two attempts to win planning permission failed, the owner put it up for sale with an asking price of £595,000.

When no sale was made, the owner applied again for planning permission to change it from commercial use to residential but was once again turned down by planners.

READ MORENorth Berwick bank plans rejected as asking price is quizzed

Now a new appeal has been lodged with councillors after agents for applicant Patricia Sharp said that no “sensible offers” had been made to buy the property, adding that the rejection of previous applications had “blighted” the building.

A report by planning officers who rejected the third planning application earlier this year said that the applicant had told officers: “It appears to us that the bank (is) blighted by the planning history. To put it bluntly, we cannot sell it to anyone.”

The single-storey bank hall, which is attached to a Category-B listed building, was sold after the bank moved out of the seaside town in 2018.

Its new owners originally wanted to convert it into a three-storey, two-bedroom property with a wine cellar and rumpus room in the basement, office and living space on the ground floor, and a spectacular living area and additional bedroom on the first floor which would have had beachfront views.

The proposals met a wall of objections from the local community, however, who argued that it would affect the character of the town centre, while East Lothian councillors refused to change the use of the building from business use to residential.

Councillors insisted that there was demand for office space in North Berwick and no reason to convert the valuable commercial premises into a house.

'Extremely frustrating'

In 2019, it was revealed that East Lothian Lands (ELL), the council’s arms-length property company which looks at transferring employment land for use, had tried to buy the bank hall.

At a meeting of the council’s audit and governance committee, Richard Baty, ELL business development manager, said that efforts to buy the site were frustrated.

He said: “RBS was extremely frustrating. When we visited there were five or six couples being shown around as residential use.”

Mr Baty said that ELL had initially offered to buy the former bank hall, which could have been converted to four small offices, for £199,000 but that was rejected, with the asking price over £225,000.

The company returned with a new offer of £230,000 but was rejected a second time.

In the end, it sold for £555,555 to the current owner who told the council that their bid was only marginally above other competitive bids for the bank.

But the council refused to approve plans for it to be used as a residential property.

The most recent application would see the outside of the bank building retained and change of use for the current footprint sought.

Planners rejected the application earlier this year, saying again it was an unacceptable loss of a commercial unit.

The appeal will be heard by the council’s Local Review Body next month.