North Berwick misses funding despite storm damage

A STORM of protest has erupted after a weather- damaged port was overlooked for emergency funding.

Users of North Berwick harbour – which was badly ravaged during a December swell – are incensed they have been overlooked for emergency funding by the Scottish Government.

Nearby Dunbar will receive up to £100,000 as one of seven fishing harbours across Scotland named to share in an estimated £874,000 for emergency works under yesterday’s announcement.

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However, North Berwick was not included amongst the beneficiaries, despite a vital stretch of the harbour’s sea wall being swept away after a 40ft container plunged into the dock in strong winds.

North Berwick Harbour Trust Association chairman Gerry Hughes questioned why the location had missed out.

He said: “We would have liked to have had a wee slice of this and having spoken to the Scottish Minister for Transport, I hoped he’d have kept us in the loop.

“In fairness, Dunbar is primarily a commercial harbour whereas North Berwick supports about six or seven fishing commercial boats.

“But still we could have benefited from this. It could have been seed funding for one or two of the projects we’re trying to do to improve the facilities. It’s very disappointing that we’re not on that list.”

Mr Hughes labelled building capable sea defences for the harbour as “hugely important”, adding: “The North Berwick harbour area, especially the dinghy part, is extremely vulnerable without a sea wall.”

East Lothian councillor and boatman David Berry said he would have liked government funding for North Berwick, but that he understood the decision was made on an “objective” basis.

He said: “What I would hope, however, is that we can talk to the government about something a little more long term. The conclusion we’ve come to in North Berwick is that we need improved sea defences and that what was in place has proved inadequate.”

The storms that battered Scotland’s east coast were labelled the worst in decades.

Transport Minister Keith Brown visited North Berwick in the days following to assess the damage to sea defences. He was told long-term repair costs were estimated at £500,000.

In addition to the damage to the sea wall, more than ten boats were destroyed, with the nearby Scottish Seabird Centre suffering extensive flooding.

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse vowed afterwards to look at what funding might be available to help repair the harbour. He said at the time: “My main concern is that East Lothian Council gets some financial support from the Scottish Government, not just to patch up the sea wall, but for a long-term solution.

“That means replacing the sea boulders, which proved unable to stop the surge which destroyed so many vessels.”

The harbour is managed by East Lothian Council, which is in a transitional phase of handing control over to the trust association. The council estimated it had spent about £50,000 from emergency reserve funds on harbour repairs as a result of the storms.

Council spokesman Rob Sinclair said the authority had not asked the Scottish Government for harbour funding. He said a long-term plan had to be first developed.

A Scottish Government spokesman said talks were ongoing with other harbours affected by storm damage. At least £525,000 remains available in the annual emergency harbour scheme fund.