CONTROVERSIAL proposals for a National Marine Centre in North Berwick have been recommended for refusal by East Lothian Council planners.

Councillors will decide the £5.5m project’s fate at the local authority’s planning committee meeting in Haddington on Tuesday.

The project to expand the Scottish Seabird Centre has attracted significant public interest, with the planning application resulting in 353 objections and 215 statements of support.

Both North Berwick Harbour Trust Association (NBHTA) and the town’s community council have voiced their opposition to the plans, with concerns including the size of the development, which is also a factor in the planners recommending refusal.

The council’s 44-page planning report concludes: “The proposed development, by virtue of its height, size, scale, bulk, massing, architectural form and external finishes and its positioning, would be an overdevelopment of the site that would appear harmfully overbearing, dominant, intrusive and exposed within its landscape setting, out of keeping with its surroundings, disruptive to views of the harbour promontory and harmful to this historic part of the North Berwick Conservation Area.”

The report states the “unacceptable, dominant and overbearing form of development” would be “harmful to the character” of its surroundings.

More than 50 full-time equivalent jobs would be created by a National Marine Centre and it has been predicted that the new, enlarged centre would attract 344,000 visits each year, an additional 71,000 compared to the number of visitors at present. Planned is a two-storey extension to the northern and eastern sides of the building, with a further extension to the west side of the existing Scottish Seabird Centre building.

Tom Brock, Seabird Centre chief executive, said: “It is disappointing to have received the news about the recommendation for refusal from the planners, but we remain positive as we believe that this project is an outstanding opportunity to deliver major benefits, locally and nationally.”

Jane McMinn, NBHTA chairwoman, said: “I am reassured that the planners see the importance of our heritage and protect and conserve this East Lothian jewel.”

North Berwick Coastal ward Councillor Jim Goodfellow, who does not sit on the planning committee but who requested the application went before councillors instead of being decided by officials, said: “I feel there is an exceptional amount of interest in this application in North Berwick, with people both in favour and against it.

“I felt that it was important under those circumstances that it was held in public at the planning committee.”

Councillors are not bound by their own planning officers’ recommendations and can vote to support or reject the application.