COMMUNITY councillors have accused a developer of not trying hard enough to find a business to take on a planned pub/restaurant.

PLOT (Haddington) LLP was given planning permission for 112 houses, industrial units and a pub/restaurant on land at the former Gateside Commerce Park in Haddington in January 2015.

House building is well under way on the site, to the west of the town, but a new planning application from Persimmon Homes is being considered by East Lothian Council.

If approved, it would see plans for the pub/restaurant dropped and replaced by another 16 houses.

The suggestion did not win favour with the town’s community council, which has objected to the plans.

Paul Darling, the group’s planning liaison officer, said: “The community council of Haddington feels rather jaded with this application.

“When it was brought to the community council by the developers, a retail space was guaranteed by the developers and it was on this that the community council agreed to the housing application.

“It was felt by the community council that not enough effort had been put into the project and some of the reasons why the retail unit could not go ahead were lacking in sound reason.

“For example, [the developers claim] the units are not close enough to the A1 – any closer and they would need a tunnel for the road to run through the retail space.

“The feelings of the community council ran high on this item, with the overall feeling that the council had been misled by the developers who in reality simply wanted more houses/profit.”

A resident of one of the houses at the development, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed with the community council’s comments.

“We were told by the marketing suite staff that a restaurant was definitely going to be built there and that was a big attraction in moving to the development,” they said.

“It’s at least 20 minutes’ walk to the nearest pub and that’s too far for many people – there is definitely appetite for a pub or restaurant here, there should be more than just houses.

“It doesn’t appear that they have tried very hard to find an operator – a cynic would say they have deliberately only contacted operators that already have similar businesses nearby and so obviously would not be interested.

“It does suggest that their intention all along was never to build the restaurant.”

The development is part of a massive change to the western entrance to the town.

Planning permission is already in place for a Sainsbury’s supermarket on a neighbouring site, while work is also under way on more than 800 homes at Letham Mains, on the opposite side of B6471.

The proposed pub/restaurant would take up an area measuring 690 square metres and would be able to seat 200 customers.

It has been marketed by Colliers International since 2015.

However, documents submitted to East Lothian Council’s planning department claimed that there was “little traction” and there was “a lack of interest amongst potential operations”.

Jim Kirkpatrick, managing director at Persimmon Homes East Scotland, said: “Even though the land in question is in a prominent location at the entrance to Haddington and adjacent to our wider site and the fact that the opportunity has been extensively marketed, there is no interest in the site from pub/restaurant operators who have confirmed the site is too small, offers no opportunity for an adjacent hotel use or is too close to existing premises which already meet established market requirements.

“Our findings, which have been accepted by the council, were included in a detailed report submitted alongside our planning application.

“Our strong recommendation is that the land does not remain vacant but instead is developed for housing, 25 per cent of which will be affordable.”