Leith residents demand answers about future of historic rainbow bridge after closure
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Managers of nearby pub The Dreadnought who use the bridge as a beer garden said the community has been ‘disregarded’ over calls for its repair.
The bridge – which became a famous piece of community art when it’s panels were painted in rainbow colours of the ‘Pride’ flags - closed in December over structural safety concerns and the council set up a diversion with barriers.
Toby Saltonstall who manages the pub with partner Roisin Therese said safety fears about the current diversion have not been addressed, after a proposed new diversion has been delayed.
It comes after new barriers welded to the bridge last week were pulled down by vandals within hours. Barriers have now been moved to the middle of the bridge.
Ms Therese previously has led a campaign to save the bridge and contacted the council about the risk the current diversion poses, as people often squeeze past temporary barriers to avoid Hawthornvale path and take a better lit route.
Greens councillor Chas Booth echoed the frustration over delays in setting up an alternative detour and has also proposed interim repairs of the middle span of the bridge.
But council officials said that there’s no budget for repairs or to demolish the bridge, four years after they were first advised the bridge was condemned.
Since it was pedestrianised decades ago the bridge has acted as the main through route for locals heading from North Fort Street to Lindsay Road.
Now locals need to make a detour via the notorious old railway line walkway to reach local shops and bus services.
Reports of antisocial activity on the old railway line include drug use, dealing, groups of rowdy drinkers throwing glass bottles at people, intimidation and sexual harassment.
Mr Saltonstall said: "It’s frustrating. The council has offered little other than excuses about conflicting priorities and lack of funds. The local community is being disregarded.
"The barriers are ineffectual but we’ve been told the council ‘can’t be held accountable for vandalism’. The diversion route is still unsafe. It was unpassable for wheelchairs and buggies recently because the fence at the foot of the embankment had blown over and blocked it. We were told that they had installed additional lighting on the walkway but all they’d done was put stronger bulbs in. It feels like the council just want to forget about this bridge. They need to find a solution, it can’t be just left in limbo.”
Councillor Booth said: “It's frustrating that this is taking so long. I’m keen to see the bridge reopen safely and money found to kick-start repair works. I’m proposing an infill of the middle span – which is the bit that's unsafe.
"Trams teams suggested they could accelerate works on Lindsay Road so we can use that road as a safer, shorter, well lit diversion. I recognise concerns from the community that Hawthornvale path is not a suitable option. I will keep pushing on this and for the council to explore alternative, interim repair options.”
Councillor Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener, said: “We acknowledge how important this bridge is to the local community, and its closure has been a last resort to protect public safety following significant deterioration. We have liaised regularly with the Dreadnought Pub and others, including site visits, to discuss the situation. We have considered various solutions to retain the existing bridge but unfortunately, due to its condition, this is not viable.
“The current diversion route is in place to avoid tram works though it will be amended as soon as these are finished in the coming weeks. In the meantime we’ve increased lighting on the diversion route, which is the only alternative, to ensure people feel safer. We are aware that some people have continued to use the bridge despite fencing, and as a result we’ve installed heavier barriers to deter this. Any damage of these barriers is irresponsible and puts the safety of others at risk, and we would encourage the public to report any cases of vandalism to the police.”