A RESTAURANT owner who installed strip lights to a glass extension has won his fight to keep them, despite planning officers describing them as harmful to the building and surrounding area.

Stirling Stewart, who owns The Rocketeer in North Berwick, said that he believed the LED lights, which were installed six years ago when the extension was added to his restaurant, had planning permission.

And at a virtual meeting of East Lothian Council’s planning committee on Tuesday, he apologised to members for the mistake.

However, he urged councillors to reject their officers’ recommendation to refuse retrospective planning permission for the lights, saying that no local residents had objected to them over the years and the restaurant needed to be seen to attract customers.

Mr Stewart told the committee: “This is not a sterile environment, this is a part of North Berwick which is a growing leisure and tourist destination.

“With any restaurant, it is vital people can see you.”

'Garish, prominent and intrusive'

The planning committee was told that neither North Berwick Community Council nor Historic Environment Scotland had objected to the lighting – however, one objection had been lodged by the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, which said the LED lighting was “garish, prominent and intrusive, and completely at odds with the historical and architectural character of this part of the conservation area”.

Planning officers produced night-time photographs of the restaurant with the LED lights on and off to demonstrate the impact and, in their report recommending refusal, they said they had “far-reaching visual impact” when switched on.

They said: “As an incongruous, intrusive and unsympathetic addition to the building, the LED string/strip lighting has a harmful impact on the character and appearance of the streetscape of the harbour promontory, and thus is visually harmful to the character and appearance of this important part of the North Berwick Conservation Area.”

However, the committee was told by Mr Stewart that the restaurant was only open after dark in the winter on Fridays and Saturdays, when it closed at 8pm, and it closed at the same time during the summer months, with the lights not used seven or eight months of the year.

A decision by Mr Stewart and his agent not to provide a lighting assessment report as requested by council officers sparked some concern from committee members.

Mr Stewart told the committee that the report would have been expensive at a time when hospitality was recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and his agent had been told it would not change the recommendation to refuse planning permission.


Councillor Neil Gilbert said that if the report had been produced he would have been minded to support the application but could not without it, while fellow councillor Shona McIntosh agreed.

However, local ward councillor Carol McFarlane, who called in the application for the committee to decide, described the planning officers' reasons for refusal as “overstated”.

She said: “In reality, the lighting is less intrusive than the street lighting and the nearby Seabird Centre.”

And planning convenor Councillor Norman Hampshire also backed the lighting, pointing out that it had been in place for six years without issue.

Mr Hampshire said: “I am confident that if there was an issue with the lighting in North Berwick, we would have had a lot of letters in front of us today.”

The committee voted by five votes to four to approve the lighting, with a condition that the lights should be switched off between 8pm and 9am daily.

Voted to approved the lighting were councillors Norman Hampshire, Liz Allan, Donna Collins, Colin McGinn, Kenny McLeod; voting to reject it were councillors Andy Forrest, Neil Gilbert, Shona McIntosh and Colin Yorkston.