RADIATION clean-up work at Dalgety Bay is on track to begin next spring, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has announced.

Ministry of Defence contractors Balfour Beatty have applied for a waste licence and intend to apply to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) for the necessary radiological licence this week.

Following the submission of the licences, the contractors intend to engage directly with SEPA by the end of this month.

The licences are needed to enable Balfour Beatty to carry out the work on the foreshore to remove radium contamination and are expected to take up to 16 weeks to obtain.

The clean-up has been delayed several times and the MoD has come under fire from communities, agencies and politicians.

Just last month, SEPA stated at a Fife Council meeting that they were “disappointed” with the lack of progress, as it transpired that neither the MoD nor their contractor had even applied for the permits which would allow them to start work.

The DIO said this week that work had to be postponed while the licences were applied for and because of the requirement not to disturb nesting birds.

David Salmond, DIO head of major projects, said: “Every effort was made to work with our partners to begin the removal of radiological contamination at Dalgety Bay during the summer but, regrettably, the application for the necessary licence to SEPA was delayed.

"This has now been resolved and we are pleased to confirm the licence applications have commenced.

“We regret the previous delay to this important work and remain committed to working with all partners to complete our planned remediation activities.”

A £10.5 million contract was awarded to Balfour Beatty earlier this year to carry out the work on behalf of the MoD.

Work cannot take place during the winter months as Dalgety Bay is home to wading birds which winter in the area.

The project will clear the beach of contaminant material and put a barrier in place to prevent any other material coming to the surface. The jetty and slipway will also be replaced.

Local councillor David Barratt said: "While I welcome another start date, it follows the April 2019 start date and the April 2020 start date. Let's hope it's third time lucky with April 2021.

"The MoD statement is an example of thinly-veiled incompetence.

"They had claimed the necessary licence from SEPA had been delayed. Now they admit that only this week has the application actually been submitted and is expected to take 16 weeks to grant.

"If I were a project manager aware of a 16-week application turnaround, I'd be aiming to get the application in at least 16 weeks prior to the intended start of works, not months after!

"If they had ever intended to start works this year, they'd have had to submit the licence application at the end of 2019 or at least at the beginning of 2020.

"That clearly didn't happen, and they can't blame the community, SEPA or even COVID for that."

Neale Hanvey, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, which includes Dalgety bay in the constituency, said: “I’m relieved to hear that MoD contractors will finally start work on removing the radioactive contamination at Dalgety Bay. The community has waited years to get to this point.

“But the reality is that we’ve heard repeated promises from the MoD, only for plans to be put on hold and everyone but the MoD blamed for the delays.

"This time, nesting birds are expected to take responsibility, despite the fact that work was delayed because no-one had bothered to apply for the necessary licences from SEPA.

"I sincerely hope that this time the MoD live up to these promises and start this long-overdue work. It’s the least the community deserves."

His counterpart in Holyrood, Annabelle Ewing MSP, added: “Leaving aside the fact that the MoD should have dealt with this issue decades ago, and the more recent delays due to COVID, the MoD’s seeming determination to avoid any and all deadlines continues.

“However, there does appear now to be a promise of progress towards the long overdue clean-up of the radioactive waste dumped by the MoD at Dalgety Bay.

“I sincerely hope that this further start date will not prove to be yet another false dawn and that we will – finally – see this work begun in April and this seemingly interminable situation brought to a successful conclusion.”