THE final design for a controversial new substation once dubbed a “big shed” by community councillors has been given the go-ahead.

Inch Cape Offshore Ltd presented the plans for three buildings on the former Cockenzie Power Station site which will bring energy onshore to feed into the National Grid.

The main substation building is described as 95 metres long, just over 78 metres at its widest and is 12 metres high.

A second building to house a number of electricity transformers is 106 metres wide and 78 metres long, with a height of nearly 11 metres.

A third ‘SVC’ building will be 19 metres wide, just over eight metres high and project out 2.2 metres.

A meeting of East Lothian Council’s planning committee on Tuesday heard that construction of the substation, which has been confined to 2.47 hectares of the giant site – which was bought from ScottishPower by the council in  2018 – will mean temporary closure of part of the John Muir Way, a popular walking route from Dunbar to Helensburgh.

'Minimise disruption'

Councillors were told that it was proposed to divert the coastal path, which runs around the north of the site, to an existing footpath on the main road running south of the former power station.

Concerns were raised about the need to close sections of the popular walkway; however, Keith Thomson, from Inch Cape, said that any disruptions would be kept to a minimum.

He told the committee: “We will be only closing it for a temporary period at the area to the west where landfill will be coming in.

“We want to minimise disruption wherever we can and, as long as it is safe for the public, we will keep it open as much as we can.”

Inch Cape won planning permission to build the substation in 2019 after Scottish Ministers controversially called in the planning application before East Lothian Council had the chance to rule on it and granted approval.

Concerns about the visual impact of the substation on the coastal site saw it branded a “big shed” by community councillors, who also raised concerns about a lack of permanent jobs at the unmanned substation.

'Robust as possible'

During Tuesday’s planning committee member, local ward councillor Neil Gilbert welcomed the design plans, which showed the substation using a small part of the larger site, although he raised concerns about plans for the site to be lit up around the clock.

Mr Thomson said that the company would be looking at using the "highest technology" to ensure lighting was kept to a minimum at night.

Mr Gilbert said: “If planning officers are content with the lighting plan and it is as robust as possible, I am happy to approve it.”

And fellow ward councillor Colin Yorkston, whose father and brother worked in the power station when it was operational, welcomed the use of the site to create "clean energy".

Councillors unanimously approved the design.