- Chas Booth

The Pride Bridge in Newhaven, also known as the Rainbow Bridge, was originally built to cross the Caledonian Railway Line and create a link between Leith and Newhaven.

Cllr Chas Booth
Cllr Chas Booth

For the best part of a century it was the sole direct connection between the two communities, until the construction of an ‘expressway’ (now Lindsay Road) in the 1970s. But until December of last year, the Pride Bridge continued to fulfil a vital role as the active travel link between Leith and Newhaven – a quick and convenient route for people walking, using a wheelchair or cycling.And thanks to the work and effort of the manager and staff of the nearby Dreadnought pub, the bridge sports a vibrant rainbow colour scheme, and is fast becoming an icon for the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve heard that some folk have even arranged to have their coming-out party there. And the bridge has also been used as an outside drinking area for the pub, which was particularly appreciated by regulars during lockdown and over the summer months.But this success came to an end just before Christmas 2021 when council officers closed the bridge on safety grounds. The structure had deteriorated to such an extent that it was considered unsafe, and had to be fenced off. This move came as a real blow to all those who use or love the bridge, whether to nip to Asda for their messages or head for a coffee to the Haven café.A number of constituents have asked how the council could have allowed this important structure to deteriorate so badly. I share those concerns, and have asked to see the bridge inspection reports.But the inquiry into how the bridge got into this condition will have to wait for another day. A more urgent question is: what will happen to the bridge now? Within the last month, concrete blocks have been placed across the bridge to prevent anyone moving the fencing to get across the bridge, as had been happening. This has underlined the urgency of finding a solution which allows the bridge to reopen safely.We know that the cost of demolishing the bridge would be substantial. The water and sewage pipes under the bridge deck would have to be rerouted, with an expected cost of half a million pounds. We also know from estimates supplied by council officers that the cost of rebuilding a new bridge could easily be double that.So my suggestion is to look to the expertise of organisations like Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, who have been breathing new life into old structures for decades. One method, called ‘partial infilling’, would fill the dangerous middle span with earth or borrowed material from a nearby building site. It shouldn’t be too difficult finding a suitable source in Leith at the moment. This would allow the bridge deck to be rebuilt, and the structure to reopen to pedestrians, wheelchair users and cyclists, and restore this vital active travel link. And the best part? It would cost a fraction of the price tag of demolition.The council’s transport committee will decide on the future of the bridge in October. I will be urging them to do the right thing, and restore the Pride Bridge to its former glory.Chas Booth is the Green councillor for Leith