A PETITION calling for a halt to a controversial flood defence scheme is to be considered by councillors after it reached nearly 4000 signatures.

Protesters want the Musselburgh plan to be paused and reviewed because of fears that the high concrete walls which will be built along the River Esk and harbour seafront will scar the town’s green spaces, damage the environment and involve the felling of mature trees along the riverside.

“It’s frankly shocking that public expenditure that could amount to almost £100 million was not subject to more independent and expert scrutiny at every stage,” said Dr Jeffrey Wright, of the Musselburgh Flood Protection Action Group.

The town’s former Lord Provost, five former East Lothian councillors and the former first chief executive of NatureScot have signed the petition, along with experts in climate change and architecture.

It has now been accepted by East Lothian Council after a public meeting attended by First Minister Humza Yousaf and other cabinet ministers.

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“They told us they had heard our requests and concerns and wanted to make sure that Scotland gets these decisions right,” said Wright.

The petition will go before a full council meeting next month which the protesters fear will see the scheme get the go-ahead.

They are concerned there has been an “over-reliance” on the council’s consultants and claim there has been a lack of independent expert scrutiny.

“The proposed scheme is an unsuitable 20th-century hard engineering approach to a complex 21st-century problem,” said Wright.

“It’s no surprise that the technical advisers who make their greatest profits from pouring concrete all over our planet are suggesting a solution that involves predominately large concrete walls.”

He added that there had been “an unwillingness” to share key technical information from the start and a tendency to treat members of the community as if they were unable to comprehend the details.

The National: The River Esk in MusselburghThe River Esk in Musselburgh

Wright said their group could help provide some “much-needed” scrutiny as it includes climate scientists, engineers, academic leaders in flood forecasting, scientists, land managers, expertise in nature-based solutions, lawyers and many other skills.

“We can co-produce a scheme that preserves the character and amenity of the town of Musselburgh,” said Wright.

“Democracy relies on the fragile bond between our elected representatives. I call on East Lothian Council to pause and review the Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme. The more people know and understand the more they are concerned.”

Professor Roger Crofts, the former first chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage and a Musselburgh resident added: “We are not against some barriers through the town because it has flood risk and that will increase in the future because of the estimates of climate change.

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“But what we have been arguing for is to let nature help to slow the water coming into the river channels.

“We don’t want our properties flooded and we certainly don’t want people harmed or killed by a flood but the community want to be involved in a collaborative effort.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “In June 2023, the first vision of the outline design was presented to the public.

"We received a lot of feedback regarding the scheme’s outline design which has truly been remarkable.

"The project team are busy reviewing all feedback and we are considering changes to the outline design which will be confirmed when the final outline design is presented to full council in January 2024.”