Further delay hits work to clear Dalgety Bay beach of radioactive material

The long-anticipated removal of radioactive materials from Dalgety Bay has been delayed until the summer, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

Clean-up works are now set to start on July 1 - a three month delay on the previously trailed date of April 1 - because of "difficulties" between environment body Sepa and construction company Balfour Beatty, which has been contracted to carry out the works.

Last week, councillors on the South and West Fife area committee heard that Balfour Beatty was yet to secure the necessary permits that prevented it from starting the operation this time last year.

A base of operations is being established at Dalgety Bay Sailing Club after trees were cut down along The Wynd to enable the owners of larger boats to transport their vessels out of the pier.

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A SEPA sign warns of radiation of Dalgety Bay Beach.

However, SEPA told the meeting it is still awaiting elements of the contractor's application for the permit to remove radioactive materials from the beach. Applications can take up to four months to process.

In 2013, the environment watchdog named the MoD as solely responsible for the contamination of the bay after WW2 airplane instruments coated with radium-226 were incinerated at the nearby Donibristle airbase after the war.

The remnants were landfilled where Dalgety Bay would later be built in the 1960s and have gradually been unearthed by natural erosion of the coastline, leading to further contamination of the area.

Balfour Beatty would only say it was "engaging with SEPA", but in response to a request for comment from the Local Democracy Reporting Service, an MoD spokeswoman confirmed the start date had been pushed back.

She said: “Balfour Beatty submitted their application to SEPA on Friday November 20.

“We understand there are elements to the application which Balfour Beatty is working through with SEPA

“Preliminary work is underway on the site and subject to a licence being granted Balfour Beatty expects the clear up to commence on July 1.

“We look forward to this work getting underway as soon as possible.”

This delay is the latest of several to have plagued the clean-up, which has been planned for almost a decade.

After SEPA found the MoD to be solely responsible for the radioactive contamination in 2013, UK Government ministers agreed a £10.5 million deal with Balfour Beatty in February last year to remove the waste and install Chernobyl-style concrete barriers over affected areas to prevent further contamination.

Balfour Beatty said it would start the works last spring before coronavirus delayed the works into the summer. It then emerged the contractor had not sought the necessary safeguards from SEPA permitting it to start the works - delaying the operation into 2021.

Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay SNP councillor David Barratt called on the MoD to lay its cards on the table.

"They told us very similar last year, that they would start works after the lockdown, but they have consistently given us start dates and it has never happened," he said.

"It has taken the reaction of the press for them to say it has been delayed until July.

"We've been here before - I'll believe it when I see it."

Alex Rowley, Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP has written to the MoD and SEPA urging them to deal with the delays as quickly as possible.

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