EAST Lothian Council has been asked to step in and do something about a long-vacant building at the heart of Haddington.

Planning permission was given nearly eight years ago to transform the former procurator fiscal’s office on the town’s Court Street into a cafe/bistro.

However, progress has been slow and the business has never opened its doors – despite various assurances that it was close to doing so.

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Jack Worden, vice-chairman of Haddington and District Community Council, noted that the building had been vacant for eight years.

He said: “Can the council do anything about it?”

Councillor George McGuire, who represents the town on East Lothian Council, vowed to speak to his ward colleague Councillor John McMillan, who is the local authority’s spokesman for environment, economic development and tourism.

Mr McGuire said: “It is actually fully kitted out.

“I believe they are now trying to lease it and it is not happening.

“I agree if shops are lying empty and not using them, it has to move and open up.”

Looking for a tenant

Earlier this summer, Cornerstone Business Agents revealed it was looking for someone to take on the lease and for the business to open.

The restaurant has space for about 50 customers, and furniture and a commercial kitchen are both in place.

At the time, Cornerstone Business Agents said: “Haddington as a town continues to expand at pace, with the population expanding at a rapid rate; a good-quality restaurant/takeaway trading from this location would have every chance of attracting a high level of trade both from locals and visitors.”

Mr McMillan, who was unable to attend the community council meeting last month, acknowledged that there had been various issues highlighted which had delayed or prevented the opening of the business.

He told the Courier he had previously spoken to people who were “interested” in taking over and “exploring” the possibility of opening a business in the building.

Unfortunately, that failed to materialise and the premises remain closed.

He added: “There have been no other local business enquiries to the council that I am aware of but we are always there to help through economic development.”

Mr McMillan, who lives in the town, highlighted that the council had encouraged people to shop locally throughout the pandemic, in a bid to ensure businesses were attracted to the town and proved successful.