The project team behind a flood protection scheme for Musselburgh have been warned they need to take the public with them as the predicted costs rise to more than £52 million.

East Lothian councillors said they had been inundated with concerns from residents of the town about the scheme with one saying it felt like it was “being done to Musselburgh not with Musselburgh”.

And as an updated report was brought to a virtual meeting of the council today, it was revealed a decision to include a 2.7km seawall in the plans could see the cost rise to £50.2million – more than five times its original estimate.

The council’s road services manager Alan Stubbs told elected members that while the Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme was initially projected to cost £8.9million in 2016, it had become a very different project.

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At a meeting in August, councillors approved a plan to look at both the risk of flooding from the sea and the River Esk, which runs through the town, by including the Ash Lagoons which lie to the east of the town and were created as part of the former Cockenzie Power Station.

In August, the preferred scheme was priced at £42.1million but today’s report estimated the cost of Covid delays had pushed that up to £43.5million and it estimated that work on the seawall, which stretches the length of lagoons, could take it as high as £52.4million.

Councillors were asked to give the project team the go ahead to continue their work to determine the flood defences which would be needed for a range of risk levels in the town and begin drawing up an outline design for how it would look.

READ MORE: Residents asked for views on flood scheme

A preferred scheme plan, brought forward in January, showed that more than 2,000 homes and businesses were at risk of flooding and that the solution was to create four kilometres of walls and embankments along the River Esk and coastline as well as removing and replacing bridges.

However the team has produced a present-day risk map which shows an impact on 923 properties in the town and a worst case flood map which shows an impact on 2,962 properties in Musselburgh.

An outline design of the defence plans is expected to be put out to public consultation in June next year.

Local councillors told the team that consultation would be essential as people did not feel they were being involved in the project.

Councillor Andrew Forrest, ward member, said: “We need to make sure people see a range of choices; if we do not take the people of Musselburgh with us this will not be a successful scheme.”

And Councillor Lee-Anne Menzies added: “It comes up at every meeting: people want to know what it is going to look like and they want options. They feel this is being done to Musselburgh not with Musselburgh.”

Ward member Councillor Shona McIntosh said the level of concern from people in the town showed how much they care for their community.

She said: “There is an anxiety from people.”

READ MORE: Resident 'concerned with reality' over flood plan

Council leader Norman Hampshire said people would be consulted before decisions were made over the scheme.

He said: “The appropriate defences will be evolved through consultation and it’s recognised that various factors require to be considered.

“I urge both residents and businesses to follow updates on the scheme’s website and to engage with local councillors to seek clarification on this important initiative.”

Councillor Hampshire also highlighted changes to the original scheme which have added to the costs, 80 per cent of which will be met by the Scottish Government.

He said: “The project is now bringing together three separate individual projects – the flood protection scheme, the Ash Lagoons Seawall future-proofing, and parts of the Musselburgh Active Toun project.

“The emerging total cost of these estimates is therefore not comparable with the estimates previously stated for the scheme.”