Regarding the decision of East Lothian Council’s planning department to refuse an application for furniture-making studios in Bolton Muir Wood, near Gifford, this decision seems incredibly short-sighted given the well-documented decline of heritage craft skills.

The proposed workshop spaces would provide an ideal next stage for local graduates of the nearby Chippendale International School of Furniture.

The school is able to provide some graduates, such as the applicant Iain Stirling, with workshop space for up to three years after graduation, giving them an opportunity to start their own independent businesses. But if they then wish to continue working in East Lothian, they need to acquire alternative studio spaces. The proposed development has exactly these aims.

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In rejecting this application, the planning department shows their ignorance of the need to nurture traditional skills. Doing so not only allows these makers to create by commission high-quality 21st-century furniture, which will become the antiques of the future, but also to use their woodworking skills in the repair and maintenance of our heritage of historic buildings and furniture.

Planning officials could not do better than take a lesson on the connection between forestry and furniture making by visiting the Real Wood Studios in the Scottish Borders. These studios take forward the inspiration of Scottish furniture maker Tim Stead and are a hub facility for designer makers and for the supply of sustainably sourced hardwood. They are supported by both the public and local forestry, who identify suitable timber for them to store and season for use.

East Lothian should be encouraging standards of excellence and sustainability such as this, not forcing skilled makers to leave the county in order to establish their businesses.

Anne Orr