A private car park established at an East Lothian beauty spot has been given planning permission despite the council and landowner failing to agree on opening hours.
East Lothian Council’s planning committee approved the car park, at Hopes Reservoir, agreeing a condition which will see it open four days a week.
However councillors expressed regret at not being able to persuade the landowner to open it longer or on Saturdays or change the permit policy which allows only 20 permits a month which have to be bought at a nearby village shop.
The owners of The Hopes estate at the reservoir had created the private car park after saying increased visits to the area during Covid restrictions had left them having to clean up human faeces and deal with antisocial behaviour and parking problems.
Concerns were raised at a meeting of the committee in March over actions allegedly taken by the estate to discourage the public from parking at an adjacent car park, owned by Scottish Water and which is free to use, or on verges.
Objectors said signs letting the public know they could use Scottish Water’s car park for free were removed, planters and obstacles placed on the verges.
Councillors agreed they were minded to approve the private car park in March once an agreement had been reached between the estate and planners over the hours the private car park would be open.
The estate’s representatives said the site was used as part of its sheep management programme and needed to be closed on certain days to allow them to be gathered on it.
At today’s meeting planners said they had been unable to reach an agreement with the owners and asked councillors to approve the car park with the condition it is open from 8am to 7pm on Tuesday, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays with a Friday opening added in December and January each year.
Councillor Cher Cassini questioned why the sheep management work had to be carried out on a Saturday saying: “Sheep do not care what day it is.”
And fellow councillor Donna Collins said the estate would have to have “10,000” sheep on the hill to need to carry out management so often.
Planning convenor Norman Hampshire told the committee he would support the planning application because “the landowner indicated that if we do not grant planning permission he would remove it and there would be no parking there”.
However he stressed that the Scottish Water free car park was also available at the site and urged officers to ensure it continued to be accessed by the public freely.
Fellow councillor John McMIllan also expressed regret that the landowner had not been persuaded to open the private car park more at the weekends and for longer hours.
He said: “I am sad about where we are with this application, I had hoped the application would be willing to listen and reach a compromised around Saturdays.”
The committee voted by seven to four to approve the application.