Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme Outline Design presented at two-day exhibition

The initial vision of an Outline Design for Musselburgh Flood Protection, was presented through a public exhibition, over two days on 20 and 21 June 2023.

This outline design brings together four separate projects and allows East Lothian Council to deliver flood protection and unprecedented level of investment to the town of Musselburgh. The four projects are:

  1. Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme, being advanced under the Scottish Government’s Cycle 1 Programme for Flood Protection Schemes;
  2. Major repair works required to the existing Scottish Power Ash Lagoons Seawall;
  3. Significant parts of two of the routes of Musselburgh Active Toun, which will deliver new active travel infrastructure in partnership with Sustrans; and
  4. A suite of river restoration interventions, through a new multiple-benefits project authorised by East Lothian Council in August 2022, known as Musselburgh River Esk Restoration.

The public exhibition, held at the Eskmills Venue, provided the opportunity for local residents and businesses to view the designs which were presented through 24 exhibition boards and 20 drawing plans providing an overview of the environmental / landscape changes; and a sophisticated 3D visualisation that combined drone footage and animation which placed proposed designs within the existing town settings. The Project Team were available throughout to assist those attending, and collect feedback.

The initial vision of the Outline Design was developed by Design Consultants, Jacobs, on behalf of East Lothian Council further to a number of years of consultation. This extensive pre-design consultation effort was undertaken so an understanding could be made of the existing town, and its opportunities and challenges, before development of the design commenced. The Outline Design now encapsulates the significant positive contributions made by the community. 

This initial vision of the Outline Design will now be revised and reworked. All feedback received through the exhibition will be considered within this process. Alongside this a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the design will now be undertaken, and it is highlighted that this EIA process will feed into the revision of the designs.

The Project Team will continue holding meetings of the consultation working groups as it works to finalise the Outline Design. A Consultation Programme for the second half of 2023 will be published in August – once East Lothian Council has an opportunity to consider the main messages received through the exhibition feedback and then finalise this programme.

It is intended that the Outline Design will be presented to a full Council meeting in January 2024 which will provide the opportunity for the Councillors to consider the Outline Design, and confirm next steps. Following approval of an Outline Design the flood protection scheme will then proceed to its formal approvals processes as defined in the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009.

Musselburgh Flood Protection (the Scheme) is the core project at the heart of this investment. This project will provide formal flood protection to around 3,000 properties in the town at risk from a major flood event. Musselburgh is also a regional gateway between East Lothian and Edinburgh and thus contains many key regional infrastructural assets including road, bus, emergency services; wastewater, gas distribution etc. – these will also be protected by the Scheme.

The Scheme will use many techniques working together to achieve a major reduction in the flood risk in the town, and thus stop flood waters spilling onto the natural flood plains on which Musselburgh was built over many centuries. The notable techniques are:

  • Sustainable flood risk management through the modification of two existing reservoirs in the South Esk catchments;
  • Sustainable flood risk management through replacement of four existing bridges in the town with new structures that won’t impede the onwards flow of water and flood debris;
  • Catchment flood risk management through the provision of a new large debris catcher located upstream of the town;
  • River restoration works along the River Esk corridor in the town;
  • A strategy for future Natural Flood Management in the upstream River Esk catchment.
  • Maximum deliverable nature-based solutions at all locations where interventions are to be undertaken.
  • A network of new drainage and pumping stations within the town;
  • Engineering works on the Pinkie Burn to achieve management of flood waters on this small burn that flows through the town;
  • Modifications to the historic Musselburgh Mill Lade to achieve flow control;
  • New physical defences along the River Esk Corridor;
  • New physical defences along the Coastal Foreshore;
  • Sustainable flood risk management through the modification of the historic Fisherrow Harbour to allow it become incorporated into the coastal defences; and

The Scheme will not protect Musselburgh against the ‘credible worst-case’ flood event however. Through the Outline Design consultation process it was determined that defences required to achieve this level of protection on the River Esk were not deliverable and would have had an unacceptable impact on the river environment and historical town landscape.

The Scottish Power Ash Lagoons Seawall was constructed in the 1960s to facilitate disposal of ash waste from the now decommissioned Cockenzie Power Station. This area continues to be managed through a Waste Management Licence and the Seawall is now beyond its design life. A suite of major repair works are to be advanced by the project to allow it continue functioning as a waste retention site and simultaneously as a coastal physical flood defence. These works combine waste management and flood protection.

The Musselburgh River Esk Restoration is a new project that is being layered onto Musselburgh Flood Protection. This project aspires to achieving living, healthy, natural river environment along the River Esk Corridor through the length of the town. Significant parts of this project are now mapped into the core obligations of the Scheme through innovative design and the obligations deriving from the EIA for an environmentally sustainable project. East Lothian Council is now working on achieving additional match-funding so that other parts of this project can also be delivered.

Musselburgh Active Toun is a separate major project being advanced by East Lothian Council that is working to deliver a new active travel network to the town through six new routes and significant investment in placemaking along those routes. The Scheme will deliver the parts of those routes that sit on the same footprint. It was considered that developing one design and delivering the two outcomes through one construction project will deliver the best outcome for the Council and more importantly the people of Musselburgh. Within the Scheme the following notable outcomes will be achieved:

  • A new 5m wide shared-space footpath from Musselburgh Train Station to the mouth of the River Esk (mostly) travelling down Eskside East;
  • A new 5m wide shared-space footpath travelling along the coast from Fisherrow Harbour to Preston pans;
  • Enhancement of the four footbridges being replaced by the Scheme from like-for-like to enhanced 5m wide shared-space active travel compatible footbridges which will be fully connected to the new pathway network;
  • Further to the last point – the relocation of two of the footbridges to new locations to achieve an overall improvement of the active travel network connectivity across town;
  • Major placemaking around Fisherrow Harbour to assist in the ongoing reinvention of the area;
  • Major placemaking around the historic, Grade A Listed, ‘Roman Bridge’ to enhance its setting and reinvent its usage for future generations;
  • Provision of blue-green natural infrastructure to manage the drainage requirements from the new network of pathways; and
  • Maximum deliverable nature-based solutions at all locations where interventions are to be undertaken.

East Lothian Council Leader, Norman Hampshire, said: “East Lothian Council is delighted to be coordinating this level of investment into Musselburgh, and to be delivering an enhanced landscape that will simultaneously provide flood protection, river restoration, and major parts of the new active travel network. The Council has been working hard for a number of years to advance these projects and this Outline Design now shows us that we can achieve these outcomes in a way that will adapt and renew the river corridor and coastal foreshore for future generations.”

“A huge amount of feedback was collected by the Project Team during the exhibition. The Council will now work to ensure that the thoughts and comments on this first vision of the Outline Design are considered in full and that the design is refined to allow us together achieve a truly first class outcome for the people of Musselburgh.”

Conor Price, Senior Project Manager, stated: “The Project Team have worked very hard over the last few years to consult the people of Musselburgh and thereafter to find a way to achieve the objectives of this project in a way that ultimately enhances the unique character of the town. Obviously the costs have increased since we began the design, but hopefully these designs demonstrate that this additional money has been brought in to deliver the objectives that the people of Musselburgh have requested: flood defences that blend into the historical build landscape; river restoration; natural solutions; active travel pathways; better footbridges; protection for Fisherrow Harbour. Etc.”

“On behalf of the project I would like to thank everyone who has participated in the design consultation process to date for helping us make this the best possible flood protection scheme for Musselburgh.”

Published: Thursday, 22nd June 2023