HOLIDAY flat owners in North Berwick have lost their bid to keep renting out the property after councillors had to use a torch to look at storage space during a visit.

The refusal of the holiday let comes after objectors raised concerns about multiple strangers coming and going.

Stuart and Susan McLean argued that the decision to reject their application to use the first-floor flat on Quality Street as a short-term let because it shared a communal stairwell with homes in the block was wrong.

They pointed out that it had a unique entrance area which was "generous" and provided storage for guests on the ground floor.

However, at a meeting of East Lothian Council’s local review body yesterday, chairperson Councillor Donna Collins said that they had needed to use a torch to see the entrance area when visiting the building ahead of hearing the appeal.

She said: "It was pretty awkward where the storage cupboard was, right outside flat no 2 and would disturb the flat.

“Layout was awkward and it was dark, we had to use a torch to see what we were doing when there.”

'Very concerned'

The property owners had applied for retrospective planning permission to use the flat as a short-term let, saying it had been used for that purpose since 2005.

And they claimed that two other properties in the block were also used as short-term lets, although planners were unable to confirm this claim.

In their appeal against the planners' decision to refuse permission for the change of use, the couple said that the council was damaging tourism in North Berwick with a "moratorium" on short-term lets which used communal stairways.

They said: “We are very concerned, both as a holiday flat owners and as local residents, the impact that this “moratorium on communal spaces” is having on North Berwick’s local property market, available tourist accommodation and local economy.”

The planning application for the flat in the town centre brought objections from two local residents, who were concerned that "multiple strangers" entering and leaving the building would pose a security risk.

North Berwick Community Council also backed planners who rejected the change of use last month, saying that flats with shared stairwells should not be considered for holiday lets.

They said: “It has been clearly established that flats with communal entrances are not suitable for holiday lets out of consideration for the neighbours sharing the flatted building.”

'Lead to problems'

However, the flat owners argued that the history of the building meant the shared stairwell was not like other properties.

They say: “The building, though built at the turn of the 19th century, is not of traditional tenement style. Its original use was that of a hotel.

“Therefore its stairwell is well equipped with generous landings for those carrying any baggage up and down stairs.

“The entrance door is a double doored. We also offer our guests the free use of  a large, ground-floor, lockable cupboard for any items they wish to store e.g. golf clubs/bikes.

“This internal cupboard is directly opposite the main communal entrance.”

Local review body members, however, disagreed with the applicant, with member Councillor Neil Gilbert telling the meeting: “On this occasion, I agree with officers it would affect the amenity of residents in that block and therefore will be upholding the decision.”

And fellow member Councillor Andy Forrest said: “It was very good to go down and have a look at the property and into the communal stair.

“The layout would lead to disturbance to the people there.

"If it had been a main-door property, I think I would have looked at it in a different light.

"I think the way it is set out could lead to problems with people coming in late at night.”

Th three-person review body unanimously backed the decision of planning officers and rejected the appeal.