A PREFERRED multi-million pound flood prevention scheme to safeguard Musselburgh against extreme weather will be unveiled in November.

A briefing for councillors and council officials at the Brunton Hall last Thursday heard that the plan would be presented to a meeting of East Lothian Council’s cabinet.

The move attracted criticism from Councillor Stuart Currie who said none of the Musselburgh councillors were members of the cabinet and could not propose an amendment or change to the recommendation.

He added that such a key document should go before the full council meeting in December.

Project manager Conor Price said: “We know we need some form of physical defences so we will come forward with a recommendation and the detail comes after that.

"November is key but it is not the end of the process.

"Cabinet gave us the authorisation to proceed previously and have instructed us to come back to them.”

He stressed that the scheme would go on to be approved by the full council.

Last week, more than 250 people visited a two-day public exhibition on the scheme – 85 people who gave feedback were in favour of a flood protection scheme and five against.

This followed a public exhibition in February, taking the total number of people consulted this year to 500.

The exhibition presented new flood maps and visitors were able to identify whether or not their properties are exposed to ‘flood events’.

Modelling used looked at not only the main flood risks from the River Esk and the the Firth of Forth but also scenarios where a river flood event coincided with a high sea level.

Mr Price said they were now pushing forward to come up with a preferred scheme which would exceed the initial £8.9 million costing from 2016, with a financial split of 80 per cent from the Scottish Government and 20 per cent from East Lothian Council.

Fresh data showed the scale of the threat: 1,300 properties are potentially at risk from the River Esk flooding and 2,300 properties from a flood event from the sea.

There is a need to protect about 2,500 to 3,000 properties.

Any scheme must not impact on the historic Roman Bridge and Firth of Forth Special Protection Area, added Mr Price.

He said: “The project team are responsible for advancing East Lothian Council’s commitment to protect the town but, ultimately, any scheme will belong to the people of the town and the project team are trying to design a scheme that will work for the town.”

He stressed that the public would be consulted again next Easter/summer and the outline design completed, with scheme approval planned for the middle of 2021.

“We will then do the detailed design, procure a consultant and commence with construction in late 2022 running until late 2024, and we will follow that up with a one-year maintenance period, bringing the entire project to completion in 2025,” he added.

Steven Vint, of consultants Jacobs, said feasible options included direct defences such as walls and embankments, looking at taking out weirs and bridges, modifying and raising them, or putting new ones back, and using pumping stations to take water out to sea.

Removing the centuries old mill lade, which runs from Eskmills through the town, or carrying out work to reduce its flood risk, installing flood gates and dredging, were other options being looked at.

Mr Vint added that they needed to take into account the environment and protected species such as the family of kingfishers who were breeding in the area.

He said there could be up to 2.3km of direct defences on the right bank of the River Esk and, on the left hand bank, there could be 1.3km of defences stretching from the Station Road/Olivebank bridge to the shore.

From the coastal perspective, there could be 1.9km of defences from the Brunstane Burn to the mouth of Esk.

He explained that the condition of the ScottishPower sea wall at Musselburgh Lagoons was important to reduce the flood risk to the town and added that work needed to be done to increase the capacity of the Pinkie Burn culvert.

Mr Price said: “There are major engineering challenges ahead for the project team, however, the thoughts of the townsfolk relating to the river, its existing structures and their key role in providing a corridor through the town’s heart which is simultaneously park, access, amenity and cultural heritage was clearly heard.

“The value of the Roman Bridge and the ability of people to access the water both resonated out as key points for consideration.”

Councillor Norman Hampshire, cabinet member for environment, said: “I look forward to unveiling the preferred scheme in November and thereafter continuing the development of the scheme in partnership with the town through 2020 when we undertake the outline design.

“The fact that Musselburgh was flooded from a ‘1 in 200 Years Flood Event’ in 1948 highlights the risk to the town and the reason that the council is advancing this major civil engineering project under the Scottish Government’s Flood Protection Scheme Programme.”

Musselburgh has a history of damaging floods from the River Esk: the last major flood, and inundation of the High Street, occurred in 1948.

There were also significant events in 1927 and 1891.

The scheme’s new modelling has been able to determine that the major flooding in August 1948 was equivalent to a 1 in 200 Years Flood Event today (an event with an Annual Event Probability of 0.5 per cent).

In recent years, the combination of rising sea levels and changing weather patterns has suggested a possibly higher incidence of flooding events in future.

All relevant scientific information on climate change has been considered by the project team, they say.