Hundreds sign petition to try and save businessman’s ‘pension pot’

Alexander Williamson wants to turn the Assembly Rooms building in Dunbar, East Lothian, into flats.

Hundreds sign petition to try and save businessman’s ‘pension pot’ © Google Maps 2022
Assembly Rooms: Owner Alexander Williamson bought the building nearly 25 years ago.

More than 300 people have signed a petition calling on Scottish Ministers to save a local businessman’s “pension pot” after he was refused permission to turn an historic building into flats.

East Lothian Council refused planning permission for the Assembly Rooms, in Dunbar, to be converted into four flats earlier this year amid a row over parking space and plans to raise the height of its roof.

Owner Alexander Williamson, who bought the building nearly 25 years ago when it had been granted planning consent for nine flats, is now appealing to Scottish Ministers to overturn the decision.

And he has received the backing of hundreds of supporters in his fight after a petition lodged by his family gathered 323 signatures.

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In the petition, his family reveal that he bought the building in 1997 as a pension pot, adding “aged 74 and still working – a pension is still his dream”.

Mr Williamson’s family said that planning consent for the nine flats initially attached to the building lapsed in 1999 and he has faced a long battle to try and move forward with plans for the historic building.

East Lothian Council’s planners recommended the proposal for four flats in the building for approval when it went to the local authority’s planning committee earlier this year, but it was refused by members.

The family of Mr Williamson pointed out that while councillors objected to the pressure the new flats would bring to parking spaces outside the 200-year-old Church Street building, they had approved hundreds of new homes for the town which had a similar impact.

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And they accused councillors of putting large housing developers before the fate of historic buildings.

Their petition says: “Less than a year ago the same planning committee granted consent for 115 houses to be built on greenbelt land at Newtonlees Farm.

“This of course has parking associated with the development but where will people park when they come into town? You guessed it: Church Street, where historic buildings are crumbling as we cannot get consent to regenerate the area due to an apparent parking shortage.

“This landmark building will continue to deteriorate beyond repair despite our best efforts, and the wellbeing and livelihoods of local people put at risk while estates are built by large developers on prime agricultural land around Dunbar.” 

The appeal is with the Scottish Government Reporter.

By local democracy reporter Marie Sharp