Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Anger at ministers taking control of Cockenzie wind farm site

Former Cockenzie power station
Image caption The site of the former Cockenzie power station was bought by East Lothian Council last month

Opposition parties have questioned why the planning application for a Chinese-backed wind farm in East Lothian is to be decided by ministers.

The Scottish government has decided to "call in" the proposed onshore part of a wind farm development at the former Cockenzie power station site.

The site was bought by East Lothian Council last month.

The government said the application is in an area covered by the national planning framework.

It insisted there was no connection with the first minister's visit to China.

Under scrutiny

The plan is backed by Edinburgh-based Red Rock Power, which is in turn owned by China's State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC).

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are questioning why ministers will have a say on the planning application, rather than local councillors.

The timing of the move has come under scrutiny as the first minister is visiting China and met with the SDIC.

However, the government said the application was not discussed.

It added the application was called in because it raised issues that need to be considered by ministers.

Image caption Proposed site of development

Labour MSP Iain Gray said: "This decision is a disgrace. I have spent years arguing that local planning decisions must be taken in East Lothian, not by Scottish government ministers.

"I am very concerned that ministers have chosen to remove this decision from our local representatives.

"The Cockenzie site is critical for local job creation and that could be jeopardised by the placing of a substation right in the middle of it.

"In the interests of democracy this is a decision that should be taken in East Lothian, with local interests put first, and I will be seeking an explanation from Ministers as to why they have taken it out of the hands of the council and the community and why this has occurred just now while the first minister is in China."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "There is absolutely no connection between the decision to call in the Inchcape planning application and the first minister's visit to China and any suggestion otherwise is wrong.

"The development is in an area covered by the national planning framework and raised issues that require to be considered by ministers.

"The decision was taken by the planning minister, Kevin Stewart on the 4 April and actioned by planning officials on 9 April."

Norman Hampshire, East Lothian Council's acting council leader, said: "I can confirm that East Lothian Council has received notification from the Scottish government that the application for planning permission in principle for onshore transmission works associated with the Inch Cape offshore wind farm has been called in to be decided by ministers.

"It is disappointing that such a key decision has been taken out of the hands of the local authority - particularly as the council now owns the former Cockenzie Power Station site."

Image caption It is proposed the pier at the site is developed for cruise ships

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