By Marie Sharp | East Lothian Courier | www.eastlothiancourier.com
Pressure is being piled on Scottish Ministers to release the findings of a report into controversial plans to build on a prime coastal site.
The Scottish Government called in a planning application to build a substation on the former Cockenzie Power Station site last March after the land was bought by East Lothian Council.
Now, Scottish Conservatives are demanding the findings of the investigation be made public after they were sent to Ministers in private.
South of Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne said the decision, which came after months of public hearings and representation, “beggars belief”, while ward councillor Lachlan Bruce said people were left wondering what the Scottish Government was doing “behind closed doors”.
East Lothian Labour MSP Iain Gray has already tabled a motion at the Scottish Parliament demanding a public update on the decision as offshore windfarm company Inch Cape, which put in the planning application to build the substation, begins eight weeks of “investigative work” there.
And East Lothian Council has said it is also considering writing to the Scottish Government, adding: “The council believes it is important for there to be transparency in the decision-making process.”
The decision on the application by Inch Cape, which is owned by Chinese state-owned company Red Rock, was taken away from council planners as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was on an official visit to China last March.
Inch Cape’s plans to bring energy from an offshore windfarm onto land at Cockenzie have been criticised by the council and communities for potentially sterilising a large area of land which has the potential to bring over 3,000 jobs to the county.
The Scottish Government reporter scrutinised hundreds of documents from all sides and oversaw a public hearing in Cockenzie late last year.
Her findings have been passed to Scottish Minister but are not being made public at this stage.
The Scottish Government said: “An independent planning reporter was appointed to consider this case, produce a report and make recommendations in order for the final decision to be taken by Scottish Ministers.
“The reporter has submitted her report and recommendations on the proposal and a decision will be made in due course.”
A council spokesperson said: “We understand that the reporter’s findings are now with Scottish Ministers, who will now determine the Inch Cape planning application, and that the contents of the report will be made public when that decision is announced.
“The council believes it is important for there to be transparency in the decision-making process. We are considering possible correspondence with the Scottish Government on this matter. The leader of the council has also indicated that he will be writing to express similar concern to the minister.”
Mr Gray said the decision on the future of the site should never have been taken away from the council in the first place. He said: “It is of such great importance to the communities affected and the whole of East Lothian that it should have been determined by East Lothian Council and local people.
“The community needs to know what is happening and what the Scottish Government’s decision will be, which is why I have tabled a question in Parliament asking Ministers to provide an urgent update.”
Conservative councillor Mr Bruce said: “The Scottish Government denied the local authority’s right to make a decision on this application in the first place, making the whole process unfair and open to proper local scrutiny.
“The fact that the report still hasn’t been released continues to shroud this whole saga in mystery and will leave many local people wondering what the Scottish Government is doing behind closed doors.”
And Ms Ballantyne added: “It’s incumbent on the Scottish Government to be open and transparent over their decision-making process.
“During the formation of the report, the public engaged heavily by taking part in public hearings and contributing towards the report. Local stakeholders deserve to know the outcome of the report and, quite frankly, it beggars belief that the Scottish Government have chosen to keep this secret.”
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2019/02/03/pressure-on-scottish-ministers-to-release-cockenzie-site-report/