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Prevent the installation of a 40-foot shipping container on North Berwick's West Bay

This petition had 130 supporters


Planning application 17/00107/P has been made in the name of Mr Stirling Stewart, c/o Nether Abbey Hotel, North Berwick, to erect a 40-foot shipping container atop the breaker wall on West Bay for the entire duration of the summer months.

This is planned to function as a restaurant. It will be fronted by a ramp and decking area and have a ‘service yard’ with bins, generator and gas containers to one side. The size of the service bay is unspecified on the supporting statement, although it is sketched in on the accompanying Kitchen & Service Yard Plan. An attached public toilet is planned (to be emptied ‘as required’), but no details are given on size or exact location, and it is not included on the Plan. No information is given on the logistics of general waste removal, other than that it will be ‘collected and disposed of by the applicant’ by means unspecified.

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The application’s supporting statement can be summed up as follows:

-Tourism is the most important business in East Lothian. The shipping container would help meet growing demand for eating/drinking places in North Berwick.

-The shipping container would provide employment for local people and support local suppliers.

-The shipping container would ‘give people more reason to use this area’.

-The shipping container will be erected on ‘established public amenity space’ at least 80m distant from surrounding properties.

-The shipping container restaurant staff could save the Council costs by handing out putters and balls for the surrounding putting green.

-Boosting the economy at local level ‘without detriment to the environment’, the shipping container would be timber clad with sailcloth canopies for a ‘nautical driftwood aesthetic’.

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The application misunderstands both the needs of local residents, and the motivations of visitors to our town.

North Berwick’s unspoilt nature sets it apart for both groups, and contributes so much to the quality of life here.  

North Berwick has managed to cling onto its open spaces through the years, and keep its character, and the place still feels special. It’s avoided the commercial exploitation which degrades other coastal towns and makes them homogeneous.

Tourists deserve a lovely place to come to. North Berwick speaks to childhood memories. It still feels like an escape from the commodification of modern life. That’s its beauty.

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Objections to the supporting statement

 -North Berwick already has a huge array of eating and drinking options. Requirement for an additional option is debatable.

 -How do other establishments feel about the shipping container? If the shipping container takes business from competitors, they will order less from local suppliers, who may not see a net gain.

-What communities need are stable, long-term jobs. Part-time seasonal work might benefit the student economy during the summer break, but is unlikely to deliver serious long-term change in the wider community.

 -Visitors do not need ‘more reason to use this area’. West Bay is busy during any season, and last summer’s heatwave saw the area under serious strain from noise, litter and even water pollution.

 -The ‘established public amenity space’ on which Mr Stewart wants to site his shipping container happens to be a conservation area, and one of exceptional beauty. Open, uncluttered space is part of ‘public amenity’ just as much as options for eating out. Indeed, as a democratic, cost-free amenity, essential for good mental health and accessible to all, it’s far more important to preserve.

 -No matter how much timber it’s clad in – or how many sailcloth canopies – a 40-foot shipping container with flanking utilities is not aesthetically beneficial to a space that’s lovely precisely because it’s been left alone.

 -If the shipping container staff begin handing out putters and balls for the green, what becomes of the part-time staff who usually man the pavilion?

 -Setting aside visual considerations, it’s hard to believe that nearby properties – let alone the putting green itself – will be unaffected by the sounds or smells of a large structure running a generator, toilet facilities and cooking operations.

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 Additional objections and concerns

-Does the restaurant plan to sell take-away food? West Bay sees significant amounts of litter at different times of year. This peaks in the summer months and is a serious problem for wildlife, pets and children as well as being unsightly. Sometimes it can be linked to overflowing bins – which end up surrounded by refuse – but often visitors simply don’t bother to pick it up, even when bins are empty. Additional sources of litter on West Bay are a serious concern.

The application mentions ‘working closely with Environmental Health’ – a cost on community resources – but doesn’t specify what new approaches might be taken or how these could make a difference.

How often will the area be monitored? Will local residents have to wait for behaviours to become a pattern before the problem can be stopped?

-This problem is multiplied if the area around the restaurant becomes a ‘beach meeting/ loitering/ partying place’ – a concern actually noted in the application documents. The application talks about ‘working closely with Police Scotland and community wardens’ – a cost on community resources – but doesn’t specify what approaches might be taken or how these could make a difference.

How often will the area be monitored? Will local residents have to wait for behaviours to become a pattern before the problem can be stopped?

-The application emphasises pedestrian-only access, but the shipping container will have to be installed by lorry and crane. What sort of damage will this do to the green, and what sort of mess will be left behind? Repairing this will be a further cost on community resources.

-Members of the public are certainly not going to stick solely to the footpaths in approaching the shipping container. It’s unrealistic to think this could be controlled. The application mentions monitoring the area ‘to ensure any issues [are] dealt with’– but how this would be done is unspecified.  The surface of the green (and parts of the breaker wall) will suffer serious wear and tear. Repairing this will be a further cost on community resources.

-Mr Stewart suggests that permission for a business on the edge of the beach be granted ‘specifically/ personally’ to him only. Ironically, this is to curb the commercialisation of the space. But if his business is found to be commercially viable, will residents have any control over it appearing in our beautiful space, year after year? And what will stop other businesses from claiming their piece of the pie? How long until there’s a funfair or a clutch of Portakabins in the space?

- It’s completely unfair to residents to commandeer a public beach space like this for the entire duration of the warmer months. Residents deserve to enjoy their beach in summer, just as much as visitors. That means being able to walk and swim without being overlooked by people eating seafood on a deck. It means having their conservation area protected. It means being unsurrounded by noise and smells and litter. It also means not funding mitigating measures through the public purse.

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The residents of North Berwick care very much about the place we live in. Please, don’t spoil our lovely town!



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