Local councillor calls for ‘creative solution’ to save Leith’s historic ‘rainbow' bridge
A local councillor has thrown his support behind a campaign to reopen a historic Leith bridge, which has been closed to pedestrians due to safety fears for those using it as a thoroughfare from North Fort Street to Lindsay Road.
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Cllr Gordon Munro, who represents the Leith Ward, says his understanding of an architect's report into the structure of the bridge refers mainly to its ironwork and that the foundations are solid.
Addressing the closure of the bridge to foot traffic, he said, “I am surprised at how this has happened and whilst aware that structural issues about the bridge had been signalled previously, this is rather extreme. The bridge has not been load bearing for well over a decade and is a pedestrian/ cycle use only.
“This fact alone should determine how it is used along with its condition. I have asked that this be taken into consideration along with looking at a creative solution that takes into account current use.”
Cllr Munro's understanding of the deterioration of the bridge appeared to be lent credence by a photograph supplied to the Evening News by manager of the nearby Dreadnaught Pub, Roisin Therese.
Taken on May 31st this year during the ongoing tram works, the photo shows two heavy construction vehicles and a Council van parked on the bridge.
Ms Therese, who launched the campaign to reopen the bridge to pedestrians, explained, “There is no vehicular access to the bridge from the Lindsay Road side, so all of these vehicles crossed over from the North Fort street side. This has been common over the past year.”
The photograph appears to contradict a statement from a Council spokesperson earlier this week when, in response to local concerns, the Evening News was told: “We appreciate the importance of this bridge to the local community and the Dreadnought Pub but unfortunately we had no choice but to close it following significant deterioration. The closure is a last resort, to protect public safety.”
Clarifying the situation today, a Council spokesperson said, “A close-up inspection of the bridge this month identified significant deterioration below the central span and it was therefore considered unsafe for it to remain open. We have carried out regular inspections of the bridge and maintained public safety up until now, though have been clear in the past that it will soon reach the end of its lifespan.
“We understand the strength of feeling around the bridge, however we had no choice but to close it. This is one of over 300 Council bridges in the city and we must prioritise available funds. Work is underway to investigate long-term solutions for this location.”
Cllr Munro, however, hopes a more creative solution can still be found.
He said, “I am old enough to remember when this bridge was load-bearing and the main road to Newhaven. It has not been this for quite some time and has been pedestrian/cycle only for well over a decade. I would suggest any solution approaches it from current use. It could form part of a cycle path network connecting Newhaven/Leith and key nodal points elsewhere.”
Fraser Parkinson, who runs the Spirit of Leithers Facebook page and group, is also backing the campaign to save the historic bridge, which has been under threat of demolition for some time, he says, “The Rainbow Bridge, a more recent name, has always been regarded as the gateway to Leith from Newhaven and the gateway to Newhaven from Leith.
“It is a significant local historical landmark. Blocking access to the bridge is somewhat curious and the likely precursor to more significant action.
“This bridge is part of the history of the area and we need to remember that history is not just something that belongs to hundreds of years ago. Our responsibility is to preserve the pieces of Leith's jigsaw now.”
He continues, “We can understand the roadway being closed to vehicles due to structural issues but if this is such a danger to pedestrian traffic then why is there not immediate structural work being carried out - that is worrying. Sadly once again there appears to be a failure on part of the Council to adequately manage communication with the people it serves.”
Local creative Mark Kirkham, who works under the pseudonym ‘Edinburgh Sketcher’, is just one of a number of local artists to have been inspired by the bridge, both before and after it became known by its current name.
He says, “The rainbow bridge just brightened my day. I cycle past the Lindsay Road bridge often as I live close by and one dull damp morning I rode up the hill from the cycle path and just its size and colour made me smile.
“I was reminded of a black and white sketch I made of the bridge and Chancelot Mill a couple of years ago and so had it printed as a large giclee print and added the bright rainbow watercolour along the bottom. It looks just as striking against the mono print as the bridge does in real life.”