A bid to turn a former bank building into a home has been rejected for a third time by East Lothian councillors despite the owner’s claims it had become “unsellable”.
The former Royal Bank of Scotland branch, on North Berwick’s Westgate, was bought for more than double the £225,000 asking price when it went on the market in 2018.
But attempts to gain planning permission to convert it into a home met local opposition and were rejected as planners insisted it should be retained as a commercial unit in the coastal town’s busy centre.
After a third application to turn the building into a residential property was rejected, applicant Patricia Sharp appealed to East Lothian Council’s Local Review Body to overturn the decision, arguing that attempts to sell it had failed and it was no longer commercially viable.
However a meeting of the review body was today told that planners believed the £595,000 asking price placed on the building when it was put up for sale again was “excessive” and “not reasonable”.
Planning officer Leigh Taylor told the meeting the district valuer had estimated its worth now at £400,000 – well below the asking price.
He said: “The £595,00 asking price was thought to be excessive.”
A report by planning officers said the applicant had told officers “It appears to us that the bank (is) blighted by the planning history. To put it bluntly we cannot sell it to anyone.”
The single storey bank hall, which is attached to a Category-B listed building, was sold after the bank moved out of the seaside town in 2018.
Its new owners originally wanted to convert it into a three-storey, two-bedroom property with a wine cellar and rumpus room in the basement, office and living space on the ground floor and a spectacular living area and additional bedroom on the first floor which would have had beach front views.
The proposals met a wall of objections from the local community however, who argued it would affect the character of the town centre while East Lothian councillors refused to change the use of the building from business use to residential.
Councillors insisted that there was demand for office space in North Berwick and no reason to convert the valuable commercial premises into a house.
The most recent application would have seen the outside of the bank building retained and change of use for the current footprint sought.
Members of the Local Review Body unanimously refused the appeal saying they did not believe there was no demand for the building as a commercial unit in the town centre.
Councillor Kenny McLeod, review body member, said: “There are possible business opportunities in North Berwick and this property could, and should, be used as one.”