PLANS to create a National Marine Centre in North Berwick will “fundamentally and irrevocably alter the harbour”, claims the town’s harbour trust association.

Proposals were submitted to East Lothian Council at the end of last month for the National Marine Centre – a £5.5 million project that would see the existing Scottish Seabird Centre extended to include all aspects of marine life.

If given the go-ahead, the main Seabird Centre building would be extended, with a second floor added to the adjacent Education Centre building – including a 360-degree observatory. The initial proposals also suggest that the two buildings would be joined by a glass walkway.

However, the plans have attracted criticism from North Berwick Harbour Trust Association and North Berwick Harbour Residents Association, who intend to lodge objections to the council.

Jane McMinn, chairwoman of North Berwick Harbour Trust Association, said that if the scheme went ahead it would “likely jeopardise the activity that takes place [at the harbour]”.

She added: “North Berwick Harbour Trust Association is disappointed that the Scottish Seabird Centre has submitted plans to East Lothian Council to develop a National Marine Centre at the harbour, despite their repeated request for a sufficient period for consideration and consultation.

“We fully support the concept of hosting a National Marine Centre within the existing Scottish Seabird Centre. However, we fundamentally object to the inappropriate plans to increase the building height and footprint.”

The harbour trust association is also worried about the impact on St Andrew’s Old Kirk and Anchor Green.

And Graeme Armstrong, a member of North Berwick Harbour Residents Association, added: “Our main concerns are that it is a massive overdevelopment of the harbour area.

“The proposed footprint will impact all elements of the harbour – from water sports to Fringe by the Sea.

“The infrastructure around that area is just not able to support a massive increase in traffic and footfall.

“The harbour area is one of the jewels in North Berwick’s crown and it would be a great shame to see it destroyed.”

A heritage impact assessment forms part of the application submitted by architects Simpson & Brown. It states there would be “permanent and direct impacts” on two listed buildings, the yacht club and the harbour.

The statement adds: “Mitigation measures would reduce these effects by good design and minimising the scale needed for effective operation.

“Measures would also offset effects by good design, of volumes and massing, high-quality materials and a materials pallet derived from the existing Scottish Seabird Centre building and to repair the existing Sunlounge building. Therefore it is considered that the overall effects on listed buildings would be minimal and limited.”

Tom Brock, chief executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, told the Courier that the plans have taken ‘several years’ to draw up, and added that “national, regional and local consultation” had taken place to ensure the new centre would be a “valuable asset for North Berwick, East Lothian and Scotland”.

Mr Brock added: “Following public consultations, Simpson & Brown produced a revised proposal to house the new centre.

“We plan to increase educational opportunities and the size of the Education Centre to meet the demand from school groups. This will enable us to encourage children of all ages to learn and care about the marine environment and wildlife.

“To achieve our charitable objectives and increase our impact we want to do much more to highlight the importance of our seas and their wildlife, including seabirds, and the threats that they now face.

“The national marine centre will deliver new activities, events and exhibitions that will include cutting-edge research and science. People of all ages and abilities will have the opportunity to discover the hidden secrets of our seas before entering the observatory to appreciate the stunning coastline that North Berwick uniquely offers.

“We look forward to continuing to work with all interested parties to ensure that the new centre brings important benefits locally and nationally.”