COASTAL communities could face an environmental disaster if they do not put pressure on East Lothian Council and ScottishPower to find a solution over a disused ash pipe, campaigners fear.

The pipe, which connected the former Cockenzie Power Station with the ash lagoons at Levenhall has long been believed to be lined with asbestos.

Campaigners say that it needs to be removed before the power station and surrounding land is sold but it is understood that East Lothian Council, which is the preferred bidder for the ScottishPower-owned site, is unwilling to take ownership of it.

Prestonpans community councillor Calum Miller said that when council officials were asked what would happen if the pipe broke during a storm in 10 years’ time, he was told “call Madrid” – a reference to the Spanish owners of ScottishPower Iberdrola.

He said: “The pipe is not deemed to be East Lothian Council’s responsibility, it will be retained by ScottishPower.

“We need action now. We need to look to other community councils to join us in putting pressure on the local authority to demand this is dealt with.

“There has to be a very public discussion about the pipe and the impact it could have if it breaks, not just here but along the coast and out to sea.”

Councillor Fiona O’Donnell, ward member, said that negotiations between ScottishPower and East Lothian Council over the future of the site were complex.

She told the community council: “They make Brexit look like a breeze.”

Fellow ward councillor Neil Gilbert added that the pipe – part of which, it is claimed, has been exposed from behind the crumbling concrete casing originally put on it – was part of the sea defence walls. He said: “Presumably if it is removed then something else would have to be put in its place.”

ScottishPower came under fire for failing to respond to repeated calls from the community council for action to be taken on the pipe.

Ferhan Ashiq, chairman of Preston Seton Gosford Area Partnership, said: “They are not responding to us right now, never mind 10 years down the line.”

ScottishPower confirmed it would be retaining the pipe in its ownership for the foreseeable future.

A spokesperson said: “The original pipeline was manufactured using cement with a very small amount of asbestos mixed in, which was a common construction practice at the time.

“Some sections have been replaced with non-asbestos mix over the years and ScottishPower continues to monitor, inspect and maintain the pipeline to ensure it remains in a safe condition.

“We are continuing with the sale of the main Cockenzie station and coal yard sites whilst the ash pipes along the remaining route will remain in ScottishPower’s ownership. As part of ongoing management and maintenance of the pipelines, A visual survey has now been undertaken on the pipeline route and some minor general maintenance tasks identified to ensure the pipelines are protected and remain in a safe condition.”

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “The ash pipe is not part of the current negotiations with ScottishPower over the future ownership of the site.

“The council along with local stakeholders is keen to understand what ScottishPower’s intentions are for the future maintenance arrangements and the legacy of the ash pipe.”