SCOTTISH environment bosses have confirmed long-awaited Dalgety Bay clean-up works are unlikely to start until later in the summer despite public access already being restricted at the coast.

Local councillor David Barratt (SNP) has said the Ministry of Defence is playing “start date roulette” ahead of the operation to remove radioactive materials from the beach.

Earlier this month, the MoD said it aimed to begin the project on July 1 – but Fife Council planners are understood to have been told works would begin three months earlier, on April 1.

Environmental watchdog the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has now stepped in, confirming that the works cannot begin until it has approved formally Balfour Beatty’s permit application – a process that takes several months.

The contractor submitted its application last November but problems with its paperwork meant SEPA did not accept the application fully, nor start processing it, until last week.

Dr Paul Dale, SEPA’s radioactive substances manager, said the body was “disappointed” that the date will be missed, adding: “The determination can be up to four months, however, we will aim to do this as quickly as possible.

“Currently, our experts in radioactive substances continue to engage with the contractor every two weeks to facilitate progress.

“SEPA will only issue an EASR (Scottish environmental regulations) permit once we are confident that the planned work will bring about the appropriate remediation of the site so restrictions can be lifted and the matter can be permanently closed.

“The area is still subject to advisory signage and access restrictions remain in place and, in addition, the MoD contractor continues to monitor the beach on a monthly basis, including during the lockdown period, to ensure that the risk to the public is minimised.”

A Balfour Beatty spokeswoman would not be drawn on the particulars of a new start date.

She said: “The application for Dalgety Bay has been accepted by SEPA and we are working with the relevant bodies on this.

“We are confident we can start work as soon as possible, however, we are unable to share the details of a start date at this time.”

The Dalgety Bay clean-up relates to the discovery of traces of radium-226, an iridescent material once used to coat aeroplane instruments, in the 1990s. Coastal erosion exposed the materials decades after they were incinerated and landfilled following the Second World War.

While the risk to the public has been deemed minimal, areas of the beach are closed off due to the risk of exposure to the equivalent of 5,000 chest x-rays’ worth of radiation.

Cllr Barratt, who has pushed for the works to begin for several years, said he was “unsurprised” to have the summer delay confirmed.

“SEPA’s confirmation of this only adds to the sense that the MoD really don’t have a grip of this project,” he said.

“Within the space of a couple weeks we’ve bounced from a start date of April 1, through to July, back to April and we’ll have to just wait to see where it falls.

“While the MoD continue to play start date roulette, they are failing to communicate with stakeholders.”

The local councillor believes questions remain over why preparation for the works has begun at Dalgety Bay Sailing Club when the clean-up itself cannot begin for several months.

Trees have been cut down on The Wynd leading down to the jetty so owners of large boats can move their vessels and fencing has been erected by MoD contractors to prevent the public from entering the area.

Cllr Barratt added: “I’ll welcome any progress made this year, and the set-up of the site compound is a positive development, but they will soon be eating into a limited window for any real progress to be made this year.”

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP Neale Hanvey said: “However close we are to remedial works beginning, I will stop short of celebrating until ground has been broken and the project is properly under way.

“The determination and efforts of local folk, community groups and politicians such as Councillor David Barratt and my predecessor, Roger Mullin, have brought us so close before, and it will be that collective effort to hold the MoD’s feet to the fire that should be remembered and celebrated when the work finally gets under way this summer.”