PLANS to convert former office space into two flats on the banks of the River Esk in Musselburgh have been rejected after water chiefs warned of "significant risk to life".

The application to create the three-bedroom flats above offices on the first and second floor of the building on Eskside West led to objections from SEPA, who claimed that a flood could see water rise by nearly 2.5 metres at the site.

And in an objection to the planning application, the agency told East Lothian planners that if a flood event, like one which occurred in 1948, happened again, "the flood depth at the flatted building could be approximately 2.47m”, adding: "This would be a significant risk to life.”

Controversy surrounds plans for a Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme which is in development for the town, with costs rising to nearly £50 million in recent years.

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A petition calling on East Lothian Council to pause the scheme raised nearly 2,000 signatures but was rejected by the local authority this week after officers said it contained "false statements".

Objectors to the scheme have said that the council is rushing ahead with a "hard-engineering" design plan rather than considering nature-based solutions.

However, the council argues it has been consulting on the scheme for eight years.

The planning applicant for the flats, Hans Investment Limited, cited the plans to introduce the scheme as a reason to approve the flats; however, SEPA said that the scheme had not been confirmed and designs were still being agreed.

The government body said: “The standard of protection it will offer has not been agreed. If there is a reduction in the proposed standard of protection for the scheme, SEPA would not consider the property would be sufficiently protected to allow its change of use to a highly vulnerable use.”

Planners refused planning permission on the grounds that “there is no guarantee the Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme will be implemented prior to the occupation of any flats and that it would provide an acceptable standard of protection for a highly vulnerable use".