In built heritage, small things matter. The Capital may jealously guard its skyline from intrusion. But no less important is the visual appearance of our streets – and our much-admired cobbles underfoot.
Back in 2006, Edinburgh City Council forked out some £2 million for thousands of expensive granite setts on Castle Street in the World Heritage Site. But in 2014, a large section of the stonework had to be ripped up to allow electrical contractors to effect repairs.
Two years later, the setts have still not been replaced – and searching questions are being asked about whether this work was properly undertaken.
Given the propensity of utility and telecoms companies to dig up road surfaces – often within weeks of resurfacing – did the city council not consider it sensible to keep a replacement supply of setts for this most predictable event? If the setts are of a highly specialist kind, was not the issue of future replacement considered when they were first ordered in the first place?
These are basic considerations on any building project and should have been to the fore on work involving road surfacing.
The affair also looks to have exposed a breakdown in communication between the contractors who commissioned the materials and the maintenance personnel who can point out the pros and cons of choosing particular materials.
Edinburgh’s granite setts may seem an all-too-small concern in the greater scheme of things, but here is clear evidence of lack of thought and communication that needs to be rectified. There should be zero tolerance of contractors who make Edinburgh even just a little bit less good.
The city rightly sets much store by its charm and appearance and the city council is not above that wise stipulation of William Blake: that he who would do good must do so in minute particulars. The granite setts of our beautiful city are just such a particular.