A former bank building that was put on the market for £225,000 three years ago is being resold for more than double the price after its current owners failed in their bid to turn it into a home.
The former Royal Bank of Scotland hall in North Berwick, East Lothian, has gone back on the market with an asking price of £595,000.
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 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 beachfront 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 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.
Despite repeated attempts to gain planning permission and listed building consent for the changes, which the Scottish Government Reporter ruled would impact the adjoining listed villa, no plans have been approved in three years.
Now the building, which has lain empty since the sale, is being marketed by estate agents Galbraiths.
In 2019 it was revealed that East Lothian Lands (ELL), the council’s arms-length property company which looks at transferring employment land for use, had tried to buy the bank hall.
At a meeting of the council’s audit and governance committee, Richard Baty, ELL business development manager, said efforts to buy the site were frustrated.
He said: “RBS was extremely frustrating. When we visited there were five or six couples being shown around as residential use.”
Mr Baty said that ELL had initially offered to buy the former bank hall, which could have been converted to four small offices, for £199,000 but that was rejected, with the asking price over £225,000.
The company returned with a new offer of £230,000 but was rejected a second time.
Councillor Jane Henderson, committee chairperson and local ward member, said she had been told “the amount paid was in the multiples”.
Mr Baty said: “It was substantially more than the asking price.”
Councillor Jeremy Findlay, ward member for North Berwick Coastal, said it was unlikely now the local authority would be interested in taking on the site under its new asking price.
And he urged the new owners of the property to work with the community in its future development.
He said: “The sale of 12 Westgate will obviously be watched closely by the local community and I hope any new owners can work with their neighbours to come up with a solution that works for everyone.
“I do not think in current times of restrictive budgets that council should get involved in buying properties like this.”
By local democracy reporter Marie Sharp
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