COMMUNITY councillors have repeated their objection to proposals for a National Marine Centre in North Berwick.

An amended planning application for a £5.5 million redevelopment of the existing Scottish Seabird Centre was discussed at a meeting of North Berwick Community Council (NBCC) last Tuesday.

Previously, community council members had stated they felt that the project would be an “overdevelopment” of the harbour area.

And at their meeting last week, community councillor Bill Macnair said: “The changes that I have seen are very insignificant from the original planning application.”

Hilary Smith, group chairwoman, added: “I do not think that the changes are enough to change our mind about [objecting to] the application.”

Members of the public attended the meeting, as did Jane McMinn, chairwoman of North Berwick Harbour Trust Association (NBHTA), which has heavily criticised the plans.

Local residents spoke out against the plans, as did members of the community council.

Judy Lockhart, NBCC member, was concerned about how many permanent full-time jobs would be created, while a local resident called into question visitor number figures published as part of the amended planning application.

He said: “The number of visitors who go in to the Seabird Centre and then spend money or visit the [main attraction the] Discovery Centre is less than 60 per cent. Apparently 170,000 people come through the doors and look at the shop or go to the cafe but not all of them pay to go to Discovery Centre.”

Ms McMinn agreed that the visitor numbers were “inconsistent”, adding: “If we all went to the toilet twice that would be 100 visits but not 100 visitors.”

Residents also voiced concerns over traffic around Victoria Road and the harbour, both during construction and when the new centre is open, should it get the go-ahead.

John Hunt, a trustee at the Seabird Centre, was also at the meeting and said: “Please do not blame the Seabird Centre for parking problems.

“The idea with the new centre is that visitors will be less seasonal than they are now.”

He said it would be “a tragedy” if the marine centre did not get the go-ahead.

Community councillors said that while they objected to the current proposals they were “absolutely not against” changes to the current Seabird Centre or the development of a National Marine Centre.

Olywyn Owen, NBCC member and a Scottish Seabird Centre member since 2000, questioned whether the current site was the right one.

Previously, Tom Brock, Seabird Centre chief executive, said the purpose of the new centre was to “build on the success of the Seabird Centre over the last 17 years”.

It would focus on Scotland’s marine wildlife and environment – not just on seabirds – and would outline the importance of the marine environment, and the threats it faces, using new, interactive exhibitions.

More than 50 full-time equivalent jobs would be created and it has been predicted that the new, enlarged centre would attract 344,000 visits per year compared to the 273,000 annual visits at present.

The amended plans include the new observatory building being reduced by 1.6 metres in height, as well as changes to the design of the marine centre’s roof.