THE opening of the new museum at North Berwick has been pushed back to next year.

A change in East Lothian Council's policy in the procurement of contracts - instituted to speed up the process - has caused "slippage" in the council going out to tender for the work at the new Coastal Communities Museum, on School Road, and the late 2012 estimate has now been revised.

North Berwick Coastal ward councillor David Berry (SNP) revealed at a meeting of North Berwick Community Council on Tuesday that a date of early 2013 rather than late 2012 was being suggested and a council spokeswoman later confirmed the change to the Courier.

The news was met with surprise by community councillors.

June Douglas-Hamilton, chair of the Friends of the North Berwick Museum group, had raised concerns at the meeting about the lack of information coming from the council on the project.

"By now we should have a schedule and a main table of events leading to the builders being on site," she said. "It's a big thing for this community and we're all united behind it. It's just a question of let's not take so long to get it up and running." Mr Berry admitted there was a question of "getting [progress] to move at the pace that we would like". He added: "As I'm aware the schedule was to finish in January next year and that, in my opinion, is longer than it should be, so I'm trying to investigate the progress." The news came as a shock to community councillor Robin MacEwen, who chaired the museum working party which helped secure funding for the museum.

"I'm surprised, I hadn't realised it had slipped from the end of 2012," he said.

Community council member Jim Goodfellow pointed out that the sign at the museum said it would open in late 2012 and Mr Berry agreed that was "my understanding" and that he "wasn't happy" when given the 2013 date.

But he did say he was "not entirely concerned" because "as long as it opens roughly this time next year we've got the run-in to the spring and summer season".

"Nevertheless, it does make me concerned that that sort of thing gets bumped and no one's aware it's been bumped," he added.

A council spokeswoman said: "There's been a bit of slippage in the original estimate. We thought it might be open towards the end of the year but that was just an estimate. We're now looking at early 2013.

"We've been putting a new procurement process in place which will speed things up quite dramatically for the forseeable future but the museum is the first contract these new guidelines apply to.

"Tenders will be going out we expect later this month, we're just about to start that process." The original museum closed in 2002 because of fears over fire safety and a lack of disabled access.