THE cost of introducing flood protection measures in Musselburgh has more than trebled to £42million after focus moved towards threats from the coast.

The Musselburgh Flood Protection plan, which aims to introduce defences against a one-in-200-year risk of flooding in the town, was initially projected to cost £8.9million in 2016.

However, at a meeting of East Lothian Council’s cabinet this week, the revised costs were estimated at £42million, with plans to introduce over four kilometres of walls and embankments, as well as remove three bridges.

Project manager Connor Price told the cabinet that the threat to Musselburgh had gone from being mainly from the River Esk, which flows through it, to being more from the surrounding coastal boundary because of climate change.

And he said the proposed £42million scheme would see walls and embankments used to create a defence barrier which would run from the town centre to the Firth of the Forth and around the coastline.

However, there was anger over the decision to bring the preferred scheme to cabinet instead of a meeting of full council from some areas of the community.

Professor Roger Crofts CBE, founder chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage and a director of the Esk Valley Trust, said news of the chosen scheme being put forward would come as a surprise to many residents.

He said: “We have the right as residents to have a full presentation by the council and their experts on the proposed scheme, be given an opportunity to question the assumptions made and to make suggestions. That is after all what local democracy is about, not secretive decision-making behind affected residents’ backs.”

Public consultations on the proposals have been held, although the details of the preferred scheme, with its extensive defence barriers and focus on coastal danger, were only revealed in the paper presented to cabinet this week.

Professor Crofts said: “The people of Musselburgh have had no chance to be consulted for over six months, while consultants and officials have worked secretly behind the scenes to complete a design scheme.

“All affected residents will surely want the flood risk to their properties and to the town itself reduced, but the council must take us with them through a greater consultative approach to arrive at an agreed solution.

“There are many questions to be addressed. Why are three bridges to be demolished and access reduced? Why are riverside trees to be removed and amenity reduced?

“There are also wider questions: what justification in reducing flood risk to properties and people is there of cost increase from £8.9m to £42.1m?”


Councillor Stuart Currie, ward member, added: “It is unfortunate that such an important strategy has not been brought to the full council so that Musselburgh councillors could have the chance to put forward amendments as appropriate.

“The preferred proposal of the cabinet needs and demands the fullest public scrutiny. A potential spend of more than £40m will change Musselburgh dramatically in the years ahead.”

Ward councillors Andy Forrest and Katie Mackie attended the cabinet meeting, although neither was able to vote on the decision.

Afterwards, Mr Forrest said: “I certainly welcome the fact that workshops and the views of residents and constituents of Musselburgh were taken into consideration, and also the fact that cabinet has accepted it.

“I am looking forward to future developments and continuing to work with my constituents.”

Cabinet was asked to approve funds for the next stage of the scheme of £960,000 to carry out extensive groundwork and preparations for construction of the project.

And members were asked to approve the preferred scheme of work.

The Scottish Government has pledged to meet 80 per cent of the costs of the total project.

Councillors backed the preferred scheme and funding for the next stage.

Concerns about the impact of the new barriers on residents who currently enjoy walking along the riverbank were raised amid fears amenities would be lost.

Mr Price told the meeting: “There will be trees that will have to come down and amenities which will have to be dug up but we aim to reinstate them as well as we can.

“We cannot say there will be no impact, you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

The flood protection work is expected to start in 2022 after detailed consultations with the community regarding the design of the defence walls and barriers introduced.

It is due to be completed within five years.

It will see defence barriers, which will be a mix of walls of undecided height and heightened embankments, run from Tesco on the east of the River Esk out to the coast and along to join the existing sea wall there. On the west side of the town, the barrier will run from Brunstane Burn on its edge, along the coast and inland at the mouth of the Esk to Campie Road.

Bridges identified to be removed and replaced are Goosegreen Footbridge, Electric Bridge and Shorthope Street Footbridge.