Emergency dredging has had to be suspended at St Monans Harbour after concerns were raised about the scale and impact of the work by local residents.
Two weeks ago, harbour users flagged up the fact that sand bar build up was hampering access to the popular Fife dock by around three hours a day prompting Fife Council to take remedial action at the start of this week.
The local authority holds a licence to dredge the harbour at St Monans and Marine Scotland granted an amendment to this licence on September 11, allowing contractors to start work on Monday.
However, it has emerged that community concerns soon put a stop to that when locals discovered that dredged material had been put on an area outwith the boundaries of the amended licence.
Although she acknowledged that the work is needed to improve the experience of harbour users, local councillor Elizabeth Riches admitted that the sudden nature of the work appeared to have taken the community by surprise.
“Sadly in their haste to arrange this Fife Council failed to let St Monans Community Council know what was being planned and why,” she explained.
“The local ward councillors were not informed either and so the arrival of heavy plant going down to the beach was greeted with puzzlement and then with horror by local people.
“Communication is so important in matters like this.
“Fife Council could have discovered just how valued this beach is by the people of St Monans and explanations could have been given as to why the heavy machinery was not going to access the harbour via the slipway as in previous years.
“The huge build-up of silt has meant that this is not possible for health and safety reasons.”
Ross Speirs, lead professional at Fife Council, said the work which involved the contractor removing approximately 100 cubic metres of sand was halted when Marine Scotland was notified by a local resident.
“We arranged a meeting on site the same morning with a local councillor, concerned representatives of the local community and a member of Fife Council Harbours, Flood and Coastal Team,” he added.
“It was confirmed that approximately 12 cubic metres of dredged material had been put on an area outwith the boundaries of the amended licence so work was suspended to agree alternative disposal options with Marine Scotland.
“In the meantime the excavated material was returned to its original position and once we agree an alternative means of disposal with Marine Scotland the works will be completed.
“Unfortunately until then, people’s use of the harbour will be limited.”
Councillor Riches said the likelihood is that there will be no more work carried out until the tides are suitable – probably in two weeks’ time.
But she warned: “After the work is finished it is important that the beach is left in the best condition possible for everyone to enjoy.”