Ambitious plans for £4.8m Leith Walk bridge

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PLANS for a £4.8 million “bio” bridge have been drawn up under radical blueprints aimed at bringing a touch of New York to the streets of Leith.

Proposals for the lightweight timber structure have been hatched in a bid to create an eco-friendly “icon” for Leith Walk at the site of an old viaduct demolished in the 1980s.

Plans for the bridge have met with a mixed response. Picture: contributed

Plans for the bridge have met with a mixed response. Picture: contributed

Project leaders at Edinburgh and Lothian Greenspace Trust (ELGT), who have submitted a full feasibility study to the city council, said designs by architects Biomorphis were inspired by the New York Highline and Paris’ Viaduc des Arts – major regeneration projects which have transformed old elevated railways into urban landmarks.

The bridge will also provide the “missing link” in a cycle path and pedestrian walkway between Portobello and Leith, which it is hoped will boast wild grass and woodland, as well as spaces for contemporary art.

Mark Sydenham, ELGT fundraising manager, said: “It would be very easy just to put up a standard rail bridge replacement, but if the idea is to create something quite iconic, then it would need to be something like this.”

But with estimates indicating the total cost of the bridge and surrounding improvements could hit £4.8m, the plans have met with a mixed response.

Thursa Gawthorpa, 34, a beauty therapist at Inner City Sanctum, said the crossing would provide a huge boost to the local area, adding: “Any improvements to Leith are brilliant, and it would look 
great with our new pavements.” But Patricia Munro, 66, proprietor of the Carpet Shop on Leith Walk, said: “Leith Walk has been disturbed for about eight years now, and more work to the area could drive walking traffic away.

“It’s a main traffic road and a bridge could cause problems, with children throwing things from it or graffiti.”

And Keith Hales, owner of Leith Walk Barber’s Salon, said he remained to be convinced the plans could be justified at a time when the Capital is battling to save tens of millions of pounds. He said: “In this day and age, when they’re looking at budgets and other more important issues, I’m not sure this is value for money.”