Protestors have submitted a petition to East Lothian Council calling for an immediate pause to the Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme (MFPS).

More than 2,300 concerned citizens have signed what has been described by organisers as “one of the largest ever community petitions in Musselburgh’s history”.

A statement issued by the petition organisers said opponents have become “alarmed at the plans, the costs, effect on green spaces and timelines outlined by the council’s MFPS project team.”

The petition was officially submitted to the council on May 22 – World Biodiversity Day.

The statement said East Lothian Council’s initial 2016 MFPS was costed at £8.9m but six years later had “ballooned. . . to a staggering £96m”.

Residents, it added, were “appalled by East Lothian Council’s ‘preferred scheme’ plan to build high concrete walls along the River Esk and harbour seafront, scarring the town’s green spaces, damaging the environment, and necessitating the felling of an as yet unstated number of mature trees along the riverside”.

Opponents are calling on the council to “thoroughly investigate” naturebased solutions into the scheme.

Professor Roger Crofts, a Musselburgh resident and first chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “Residents and visitors have made it clear that the scheme must be paused because of the overestimate of flood risk accepted by East Lothian Council, lack of understanding of climate change science uncertainties, inadequate assessment of using nature to slow down water in the river, potential loss of amenity in their scheme, lack of adequate consultation by the council and the escalating costs to the public purse.”

He added: “Significantly, there is now additional good reason for pause. Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary Mairi McAllan will be carrying out a review of flooding strategy this year.

“I hope this will remove the flaws in the existing approach which can be applied in Musselburgh and elsewhere. East Lothian councillors must listen to the voice and will of the community and work within a revised, cost effective Scottish Government strategy that takes full account of the climate and biodiversity crises.”

Neil Armstrong, a Musselburgh resident and businessman who has been an active member of the community in raising the petition, said: “East Lothian Council needs to pause this scheme and use the time to answer the community’s concerns.”

David Sugden, Emeritus Professor of Geography at Edinburgh University, said: “The plan to build structures on both sides of the river in Musselburgh will damage the environmental quality of one of the urban gems of East Lothian. It seems a harsh approach to a problem that can be tackled by more environmentally sensitive nature-based approaches.”

A council spokesperson advised: “The petition has been submitted to the council’s petitions and community empowerment review committee for consideration.

“We would like to remind Musselburgh residents, businesses and other stakeholders that the outline design for the flood protection scheme will be presented in June. This has taken into consideration many of the points raised and also addresses some factual inaccuracies contained within the petition.”