Tarmac to repair Castlehill cobbles ‘is vandalism’

Tarmac has replaced cobbles on the road leading up to Edinburgh Castle. Picture: Julie Bull

Tarmac has replaced cobbles on the road leading up to Edinburgh Castle. Picture: Julie Bull

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An “eyesore” roadwork on one of the busiest tourist areas of the Capital has prompted a furious backlash from heritage campaigners who have branded it an act of vandalism.

Scottish Power has found itself facing fierce criticism after removing a section of historic cobbles on Castlehill and replaced them with tarmac – a move it dubbed a “temporary” measure – as part of “essential works” in the area.

The energy supplier insisted it will reinstate the cobbles, which are now with the council, “as soon as possible”.

But heritage groups have blasted the move amid claims it has blighted the heart of the Old Town at the worst possible time – with just a month to go before Edinburgh’s world famous military tattoo.

Marion Williams, director of Edinburgh’s Civic Trust the Cockburn Association, said: “It is a mess. In such sensitive sites there should be an insistence and guarantee that the work will be done and the setts (cobbles) replaced without a need to leave a tarmac finish, temporary or otherwise.

“The standard of Edinburgh’s streetscape comes into question time and again.”

Fiona McEwan, of the Royal Mile Business Association, added: “The Royal Mile as we all know is a World Heritage Site but does not get world-class treatment. I hope the cobbles are fixed in time as we should be very protective of what we have.

“The fact that the cobbles stop just after the St Mary Street/Jeffrey Street intersection is a nonsense – the whole street should be cobbled to provide aesthetic continuity.”

Bill Cowan, the planning secretary of the Old Town Association, also pledged to raise the issue with the local community council – and said he was concerned that the “temporary” patch could be there for a considerable period of time.

He said: “Temporary means all sorts of things. I know of a ‘temporary’ portable cabin that has been in place since 1948.

“What tends to happen is that the statutory providers like Scottish Water and Scottish Power have the right to dig up a road and vandalise it whenever they feel like it and the council has no control. I dare say the time taken to repair it will be quite long term.”

A spokesman for Scottish Power insisted that the cobbles would be replaced “as soon as possible” and said they were aware of the start date for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the nearby Esplanade.

He said: “We recognise that the cobbles have to be re-instated. We are aware of the date of the Tattoo and we are in talks with the council to sort this out as soon as possible.

“The work to strengthen the grid network was essential and we also had to move a substation to allow disabled access to a new restaurant in Cannonball House.”

A Tattoo spokeswoman said: “As far as we’re aware it’s a temporary measure. It’s the council who decide when any roadworks take place so we’re not sure if the cobbles will back before August. Whilst not the most attractive, the tarmac means our audience can safely walk to the Castle Esplanade without holes in the street.”