Plans to build an electrical substation on part of the site of the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans are expected to be given the go-ahead when East Lothian Council’s planning committee meets on Tuesday.
The Inchcape Offshore Windfarm proposal would see a new substation built immediately east of Prestonpans, adjacent to the long-closed Cockenzie Power Station’s former coal handling plant.
However, it has brought objections from the local community and the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Heritage Trust, who say it should not be allowed on the historic land.
The trust believes that the substation, which would be used to bring electricity from the offshore windfarm onto the National Grid, could be built on neighbouring brownfield land, at the coal handling plant itself.
The plant would cover some 2.7 hectares of land and be about 46 metres long, 11 metres wide and about 14 metres tall – and be enclosed by security fencing.
On Tuesday, a report on the proposals will recommend that planning permission is granted in principle for the construction, operation and decommissioning of the onshore substation, electricity cables and associated infrastructure required to export electricity.
The report also revealed that Prestonpans Community Council was supporting the plans for the new substation, while both Tranent and Elphinstone, and Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Councils had not submitted any comments about the proposals.
A public meeting organised last week by the Coastal Regeneration Alliance – a community-led action group – voted to reject the Inchcape plans.
And there has been talk of a protest outside the Town House in Haddington when the planning committee meets on Tuesday.
Opposition to the development was dealt a blow after Historic Scotland decided not to object, despite confirming the proposed development was within the historic battlefield site.
Instead, it has written to East Lothian Council’s planners to say it believes the impact is “not so adverse as to raise issues of national significance such as we would object”.
The decision stunned opponents to the substation, particularly the Heritage Trust whose members expected the agency, which holds a National Directory of Historic Battlefields, to oppose the plans.
Dr Gordon Prestoungrange, trustee and former chairman of the trust, said Historic Scotland’s position had left him “incredulous”.
He said: “To suggest the proposal does not raise issues of national significance is beyond belief, bearing in mind the land itself is listed in the National Inventory so lately completed.
“We have devoted time and much energy since 2006 to ensuring the conservation and interpretation of the battlefield.
“At no time has Historic Scotland consulted with the battle trust on site prior to reaching its conclusions.”
The Battle of Prestonpans is recognised by Historic Scotland as the first significant conflict in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, resulting in the defeat of the Government army by Bonnie Prince Charlie and his supporters.
It paved the way for a major escalation in recruitment to the Jacobite cause and made possible the march into England by the Jacobite army in November of that year.
Historic Scotland said it welcomed revisions made to the original proposals by Inchcape, which had moved the substation slightly to the north-west to avoid crossing the historic Waggonway site which is now a popular pathway.
Historic Scotland told the council: “While we consider there will be an impact upon the battlefield we recognise and welcome revisions to the scheme, which have sought to minimise impacts within the limitations of the land available.”
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