A LANDOWNER has responded with fury after being blamed for holding up a radiation clean-up at Dalgety Bay foreshore.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said local stakeholders were “dragging their feet” and causing delays which may lead to the work not happening in 2020 at all.

However, the main landowner, Dalgety Bay Sailing Club, hit back at the"bullying tactics" of the MoD and said the suggestion they were at fault was "completely unfounded, inaccurate and misleading".

Accusations were levelled at last week's South West Fife area committee, where the club was not represented, with the MoD's Stephen Ritchie telling councillors: “We actually have had Cabinet approval, ministerial approval – we have all the funding we need and authority to proceed.

“However, the local stakeholders are dragging their feet. We can’t get on the land to clean up the waste without the landowner’s permission. There are four stakeholders for the area – one of which is the Crown, which is obviously not an issue. However, the other three have been dragging their feet.”

Councillors were told that the MoD was looking to award the contract to a company to clean up the waste by December 13 but that if talks continued to stall, they could miss their window and the project would be delayed, meaning that the clean-up might not happen in 2020.

Mr Ritchie said: “The company will start on-site work in April, and need those 13/14 weeks in winter to get the site set up and get their licence from SEPA. If we miss that December 13 deadline, the contract won’t be awarded till after Christmas and that’s three or four weeks we've lost.”

He also warned that if the contract wasn’t awarded soon, a change of government in the December 12 general election could see the contract called in for review.

Asked if the local stakeholders were aware of these time constraints, Mr Ritchie said: “The other three are aware and have been told the implications. They know the implications are severe but it doesn’t seem to be cutting it.

“Far be it from me to say that they’re using the time constraints as leverage, but we are paying for all reasonable costs to the stakeholders during the clean-up.We are trying to get them to the table for talks but there just seems to be no sense of urgency.”

However, a statement on the sailing club's website said: "The club's view is that the MoD is trying to deploy bullying tactics and the allegations they make are completely unfounded, inaccurate and misleading. This may be a cover up since any delay to the start of the project will be as a direct result of failings by MoD."

It said they have been "co-operating fully" with the MoD and SEPA over the past 18 months and that legal agreements for compensation and the transfer of land ownership, which would allow access and the work to progress, have actually been delayed by the MoD who have not responded to repeated requests for action.

The club said the contract signing date was brought forward from December 23 to 13 and added: "We are now faced with having less than four weeks before MoD’s self-imposed deadline to review and agree a document which we have not yet seen."

Pollution was first discovered at the site in June 1990, with the radiation blamed on World War II aircraft dials that used luminous paint containing radium.

More than 3,000 radioactive particles have been found at the beach, in nearby gardens and next to the sailing club over the past two decades.

Councillor David Barratt told the Press: “The MoD and UK Government have procrastinated and delayed for decades. In recent years, when we looked set to finally make progress, there have been further delays caused by the UK Government failing to sign off key stages.

“Far from dragging their feet, I am led to believe local stakeholders have been proactive in pursuing an agreement to ensure the works progress as planned.

“The local stakeholders have my absolute support and I will continue to put pressure on the MoD and UK Government to see this through to completion.”