Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme outline design approved

The outline design of a scheme to protect Musselburgh from major flood risk was presented to elected members at the full meeting of East Lothian Council on Tuesday 23 January 2024.

Incorporating community feedback obtained through extensive engagement, the outline design is focused on reducing flood risk using established and evidence-based techniques, while retaining the town’s historic character and natural environment.

At the meeting, Councillors agreed that the design can now be presented to stakeholders and the public through a formal, statutory consultation process.

This means that a final decision on whether to go ahead with the project is still to be taken, with further opportunities for the community to provide feedback and ask questions regarding the proposals.

East Lothian Council Leader, Norman Hampshire said: “After around three years of significant engagement consultation with residents, businesses and other stakeholders within the town, I am pleased to see the outline design of the flood protection scheme presented to elected members for consideration.

“I would like to thank everyone in the town who has provided feedback, attended a consultation event or drop-in event. This feedback helped to shape the initial outline design, presented to the public last June. Since then, the project team have carried out further work to bring forward a scheme which aims to deliver objectives that have been requested by the community: flood defences that blend into the historical build landscape; river restoration; natural solutions; active travel pathways; better footbridges; protection for Fisherrow Harbour.

“We know that it’s important to continue to work closely with the community and I’m pleased that the council has agreed that the project can progress to the next stage, including presentation to the scheme’s stakeholders and the public through a formal consultation process.

“While this represents a substantial investment, by providing a higher level of flood protection we can mitigate the wider cost to the town which would result from significant flooding and damage.

“Although there is clearly a lot still to do before a final decision can be made and work can begin, this decision by the council represents a significant milestone in the journey towards achieving the desired level of future flood protection for the town.


The scheme 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. The updated estimate for the scheme is £53.9 million.
  2. Major repair works required to the existing Scottish Power Ash Lagoons Seawall. The updated estimate for this work is £52.1 million.
  3. Significant parts of two of the routes of Musselburgh Active Toun, which will deliver new active travel infrastructure in partnership with Sustrans. The updated estimate for the parts of the project which can be delivered by the Scheme is £26.5 million.
  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 Scottish Government will contribute 80% of the cost of the Scheme.

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 to become incorporated into the coastal defences.

Fourteen photomontage visualisations have been published on the scheme website to assist with understanding how the design will sit in the existing landscape. These are not considered to be the final product as the Design is not complete, however, they are presented to complement the Design Drawings and prompt further discussions on the proposals.


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