Concrete versus nature in the battle to hold back the floods
How Musselburgh has become a test bed in one of Scotland's fiercest environmental debates
The picturesque banks of Musselburgh’s River Esk have become a battleground for a complex and controversial multi-million pound flood defence scheme that has bitterly divided opinion on how communities should adapt to climate change.
At the heart of the conflict remains two opposing positions which are both aiming to reduce the risk of flooding - on the one hand stark and secure concrete walls and on the other nature-based solutions. The question campaigners are posing is whether the latter play a bigger role in keeping this historic fishing town dry and perhaps in the process prevent the need for 6 feet high concrete walls.
East Lothian Council’s answer to rising waters has come in the form of a mammoth engineering project which aims to introduce a flood defence wall along the river bank and coastline. The proposed flood defence wall could reach up to 6 feet in some sections, eclipsing scenic views to which local residents and visitors have long been accustomed. A number of mature trees in the affected areas would also be felled to accommodate the structure.
The Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme’s ‘outline design’ is yet to be finalised but immediately became a major talking point in the town when a public exhibition of the proposed design was launched in June of this year. It’s “over-engineered” according to Musselburgh resident Roger Crofts, who is calling for the project to include more nature-based solutions instead of imposing concrete structures along the river and coast line. The campaigner is calling for a ‘pause and review’ of the scheme, a staunch position shared by many within the community – and it’s gaining momentum.