Petition rejected at competency check stage

A petition calling for a ‘pause’ in the development of the Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme (the Scheme) has been rejected on the basis that it contains false statements, contrary to the petition criteria set out on the East Lothian Council website: Petitions criteria and procedures | Petitions | East Lothian Council It was felt that these statements would likely have been the trigger for many of the signatories, and therefore it was unclear how these statements could be removed and the petition still stand.

 Officer comments provided at the petition competency checks are:

  • ‘East Lothian Council is rushing to approve a flood protection scheme.

Not upheld – the project has been consulting and progressing both in public consultation and governance since 2016 and is working to a timetable approved through a full meeting of East Lothian Council. The timescales allocated to each stage of the project are considered to be equivalent to such stages for other flood protection schemes and other equivalent projects. That said, current stage has already been extended from c. 12 months to c. 4 years, partly due to the pandemic, but also following feedback received from public consultations in summer 2021. The revised timeline allowed the council to undertake a major piece of additional consultation with stakeholders and Musselburgh residents. It is currently estimated that the scheme would not be approved under the legislation before the end of 2024. ·

  • ‘The Scheme is costing £100M.’

This is factually incorrect - at no point has a figure of £100M been stated. A clear summary of costs was provided in a Council report in October 2022 (available at Agendas, reports and minutes | East Lothian Council item 5). In this report it was documented that the preferred scheme costs (publicly stated in January 2020 as the cost estimate) have risen from c.£42M to c.£43M due to the impact of COVID-19. The Scheme is now required to provide additional flood protection due to the new climate change data released in December 2018, alongside multiple-benefits including: a major active travel pathway investment, and the inclusion of the Scottish Power Ash Lagoons Seawall which will become a council liability with additional costs of c.£122k and c.£56M respectively.

  • ‘The Outline Design of the Scheme will be presented in June 2023 for public approval of a flood scheme that will introduce walls down the river Esk and along the coast.’

As the outline design is not yet complete, this is therefore premature. It is correct that the Outline Design will be presented for the first time in June 2023. It is not correct that the Outline Design is completed, therefore it is not yet determined what form the new physical defences will have. There may be some walls, however, this is not determined. It is also not being presented for public approval: it is being presented for public consideration and comment. It is therefore untrue to state this as fact, and presumes the outcome of a process that is currently ongoing. The defences may also be earthen embankments or sand dunes, as advised local area consultations in February 2023. The petition makes comment on a design which has not yet been presented to the community. ·

  • ‘Only 8% of the current proposals relate to nature based solutions.’

This is factually incorrect and a premature assessment. Natured-based solutions are being considered, which covers a diverse array of concepts and can include: the re-creation or enhancement of habitats; the use of organic materials in structures; and ecological enhancement of existing hard infrastructure. These concepts can be used to provide flood risk management, water quality improvement, storm water management, and carbon sequestration. However, the extent cannot be known as the Outline Design is not completed and it has not been presented to the town.

It is the position of officers that the petition is not competent on the basis that it contains misinformation, and it will not therefore be presented for consideration by the Petitions and Community Empowerment Review Committee.

Published: Wednesday, 31st May 2023