THE chairman of Prestonpans Community Council has claimed that East Lothian Council is “moving the goalposts” after the local authority was accused of changing its reasons behind the planned closure of Johnnie Cope’s Road.

DJ Johnston-Smith had invited a member of the council’s roads team to come to the groups’s next meeting to justify their reasoning for closing the road.

The roads team confirmed that no one would be able to attend and that the road was being closed “on the grounds of ‘road safety’.”

However, community councillors questioned this reason, as they said it was “definitely not the justification given in the original attached ‘redetermination order’.”

The community council also raised concerns that the council was saying the road was not safe for regular traffic but “still safe enough for combine harvesters, fire trucks, moving vans, etc”.

Johnnie Cope’s Road, which connects Prestonpans and Tranent over the A1, is adopted by East Lothian Council on either side of the bridge over the dual carriageway, with the bridge itself coming under the ownership of Transport Scotland.

East Lothian Courier: johnnie cope road prestonpans 18/2/23

The closure was justified by East Lothian Council as the road was deemed “unnecessary” under Section 68(1) of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984. It was originally due to close as a through route for vehicles when the A1 Tranent bypass opened in 1986, but be kept open for walkers and cyclists.

But the closure was never made legally effective as the then highways authority – Lothian Regional Council – never made the necessary TROs (traffic regulation orders) needed to authorise it.

Now the plans have been revived as council officials aim to close the road to all vehicles except emergency vehicles and local access.

However, it is now claimed that East Lothian Council is justifying the closure using Sections 1(1) and 152(2) of the same act, even though these were not presented to statutory stakeholders on January 23 this year.

The community council now claims the council has “chosen to move the goalposts mid-game” in its efforts to close the road, adding that the public consultation into the closure should be paused as a result.

Mr Johnston-Smith said: “Our community council has engaged over several months in good faith with council officers on their proposal to close one of the two direct routes connecting Prestonpans and Tranent but now feels badly let down.

East Lothian Courier: johnnie cope road prestonpans 18/2/23

“We were asked to provide statutory comments on one particular clause of a 1984 Act, formally offered as justification for closure of this vital road between our communities, which we duly responded to.

“Then, following their taking internal legal advice, once the period of statutory consultation was closed, the council presented two different clauses justifying closure when opening the consultation to the public.

“The original formal justification for closure offered in 1986, and again as recently as [January], was that the Johnnie Cope Road was ‘unnecessary’ and that this whole procedure was just a late completion of statutory work begun 37 years ago.

“The current justification is that the bridge, owned by Transport Scotland, is now used by too many vehicles and is to be closed on the grounds of ‘road safety’.

“Ironically, one of the pertinent clauses being utilised was intended to assist local authorities in the easier upkeep, improvement and renewal of roads, but it also allows a council to ‘determine the means by which the public’ has a ‘right of passage over’ a road.

“The formal goalposts have most definitely moved. But the given reasoning also presents a more puzzling paradox.

READ MOREJohnnie Cope's Road: Letter to council objects to 'absurd' closure bid

“How is it that a bridge that we are told can continue to withstand the weight of combine harvesters, fire engines, heavy goods vehicles and more, without fear of it collapsing onto one of the busiest roads in Scotland, is also in too dangerous a condition to continue to be used by cars and other vehicles?”

Mr Johnston-Smith stressed that it had asked the council for research material to back up these claims but had so far not received any data to justify its closure.

He added: “The recently rediscovered intention by Lothian Regional Council to close this historic route nearly four decades ago is absolutely immaterial now, as no such formal order was ever submitted.

“Perhaps the reason it wasn’t done way back then was to avoid the levels of objections such a proposal is now attracting.

“Whatever the reason, a lot has changed in 37 years. Both towns have grown considerably in size and the historic Johnnie Cope Road is a well-used route today, particularly by commuters on the way to the railway station park and ride and by local taxi firms, both integral strands of existing public transport strategies.

“At some point in this process, that hugely significant fact will have to be acknowledged both by the councillors and their officers, who have so far chosen to singularly ignore this uncomfortable truth.”

READ MOREFundraiser set up to fight council plans to close Johnnie Cope's Road

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “We refute any suggestion that changes have been made in the legal process regarding this TRO. The original Lothian Regional Council order did make reference to Section 68, and the order was promoted under 1(1) and 152(2), which is what East Lothian Council has done.

“The bridge is not adopted by East Lothian Council and it is the responsibility of Transport Scotland so they would need to be contacted to obtain any reports.

“East Lothian Council’s structural engineer has advised that this is an accommodation bridge and was not designed to take the volume and type of traffic using it.

“This is why Johnnie Cope’s Road was originally to have been closed as a through route when the A1 Tranent bypass opened in 1986, but kept open for walkers, cyclists and farm access.

“To this end, a bridge was provided where it crosses the A1 and ‘no through road except cycles’ signs were sited at both the Tranent and Prestonpans ends. As a single lane accommodation bridge, it’s not suitable, nor was it ever designed, to take the volume and type of traffic currently using it.

“The TRO is currently out for consultation and people can provide feedback directly to East Lothian Council legal team at”