PLANS to build a 21-metre-high building to handle offshore energy in rural East Lothian have been approved by councillors, despite concerns over a lack of a masterplan for the area from local communities.

The proposals by SSE Renewables could see Berwick Bank Wind Farm, which would be one of the world’s biggest wind farms, bring energy onto land near Skateraw, on the east of the county coastline.

Their plans to create a substation or converter station near Innerwick in the Lammermuirs include running cables across just under 600 hectares of land between Skateraw at the coast and Branxton.

East Lothian Courier: Map shows route Berwick Bank Wind Farm cables will use to feed offshore power into the National Grid. pic DPEA Appeal website PERMISSION FOR USE FREE FOR ALL LDR PARTNERSThis map shows the route that Berwick Bank Wind Farm cables will use to feed offshore power into the National Grid. Image: DPEA Appeal website

The proposals are already expected to face a public inquiry by Scottish Ministers next year over the energy firm’s bid to issue compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) on owners of land involved.

The operators of Torness Power Station, Network Rail, ScottishPower and private land owners all object to the CPOs.

READ MOREBerwick Bank Wind Farm: Public inquiry to be held over land sales

However, calls for the planning application in principle for the work to also face a public inquiry were today rejected by councillors on East Lothian Council’s planning committee.

The committee heard objections from three community councils representing local residents across the area who argued that planners could not consider the application without taking into account other planned projects for the area.

It was claimed that the building proposed would be 21 metres high and visible from Innerwick.

The council was accused of allowing a "piecemeal" approach to renewable development in the countryside, with claims another 10 projects were already in the pipeline for the area.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, planning committee convenor, told the meeting that members could only consider the cumulative effect of projects which were in place, not those which might come in the future, urging fellow members to vote on the application on its own merit.

Councillor Shona McIntosh urged SSE Renewables to look into ways that a heat recovery system could be used to harness some of the power from the new facility for local residents.

She pointed out that there were about 150 homes in the village of Innerwick, many of which relied on oil and were in fuel poverty.

She said: “This is going to make huge profits and yet there will be a community living in fuel poverty next to it.”

A spokesperson for SSE Renewables said it was investigating whether it was feasible to introduce a network.

Councillor Lyn Jardine, a ward member who is not on the planning committee, urged members to reject the plans, saying that the concern among local communities was “absolutely palpable”, while Councillor Jeremy Findlay told the committee he would refuse to back the proposal in the hope it would go “further up the food chain” – in a reference to an appeal to Scottish Ministers.

However, Mr Hampshire told members they had a duty to determine the proposal and, if it were refused and later approved on appeal, they would "lose control" of it in the future.

The committee voted by nine votes to one to grant planning permission in principle.