ROADWORKS on a key route in and out of Prestonpans, which began in March, now look set to drag on until early next year.

A previously unrecorded mine shaft was discovered beneath the B1361, just west of its junction with Prestongrange Road, leading to reports of subsidence.

The Coal Authority aims to excavate and cast a reinforced concrete cap over the position of the mine shaft but, due to various factors, it may be another 16 weeks before the work is done.

Until then, a section of the north side of the road is closed and traffic lights in place, leading to delays for motorists.

Michael Owens, of the Coal Authority’s public safety and subsidence team, said the programme to remediate the shaft would start once all the necessary permissions and utility works had taken place.

He added: “A full design has been carried out by Coal Authority engineers and given the highly technical and planning nature of this project, AECOM, an engineering consultancy firm, have been appointed by us to oversee the project works.

“We are also in discussions with the utility company SGN, who need to isolate and divert the medium pressure gas main that runs under the road before our work can start.

“SGN have indicated that the lead-in time for their work could be up to 16 weeks but we are in discussions with them and are waiting for confirmation of their start date.

“This is of central importance to the appointed contractor’s defined programme of works for the wall removal, tree preservation works and shaft treatment works.

“We sincerely apologise for this disruption to the local community, but this is a complicated site where we have had to obtain the necessary planning permissions and consents as well as the diversion of the gas main before we can carry out the permanent solution to the shaft.”

Prestonpans Community Council has complained to the Coal Authority about the length of time spent on the project.

DJ Johnston-Smith, community councillor, said there was “huge frustration”, especially among the nearby residents.

“Living as we do on top of almost a thousand years of coal-mining activities, everyone accepts that such subsidence activities are likely to occur from time to time, but in this instance, the Coal Authority appears to have taken an overly excessive amount of time to meet its responsibilities,” he said.

“Having known about complications caused by an adjacent listed wall, some nearby protected trees and the neighbouring gas main, the Coal Authority appears to have singularly failed to address each of these all at once, a failure further compounded by their poor communication to the town of progress in dealing with the sinkhole.

“Local residents simply wish for a speedy conclusion to this issue, which has undoubtedly caused alarm to those whose houses overlook the subsidence and inconvenience for those using this main route in and out of the town for the better part of a year now.”