Longstone path: Bridge ownership still an issue as councillors set to discuss "vital link" nearly four years after closure
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Councillors are next month set to again discuss a “vital link” which has remained closed for nearly four years due to issues regarding the small bridge at one end of the path.
The path linking Longstone to Stenhouse between HMP Edinburgh and the Water of Leith has been closed at the Longstone Road end since July 1, 2019, after flooding led to the back of buildings on Longstone Road falling into the Murray Burn. The ‘Burnside Bridge’ or ‘Stenhouse Mill Lane Bridge’ which crosses the burn at the Longstone end of the path was closed due to safety concerns. A fire there last year has now left the entrance to the path as a gap site next to the former Longstone Inn pub. The council blocked the access at Burnside Bridge from Longstone Road with fencing, although locals often still find a way though.
A Principal Inspection was carried out by Aecom engineering in 2018, before the flooding, which showed deterioration of the abutment and other minor and major defects that need to be repaired. The City of Edinburgh Council is unable to repair the bridge as it is on private land, believed to be owned by the Earl of Morton.
The path is now due for discussion next month at the council’s Transport and Environment committee meeting on February 2. Longstone Community Council secretary Steuart Campbell spoke of the importance of re-opening the path. He said: "It’s been closed for a few years. It’s annoying local people obviously. It’s a great inconvenience as it’s a well established path, which is great quick way of getting from Longstone to Stenhouse, instead of taking a long walk round Chesser. We have raged against the council for not doing something about it. We understand the problem with the ownership issue, we can’t help with that.
"It comes up at our meetings all the time. It’s a vital link. I suppose people are getting around it some way but it was a very convenient link for a couple of hundred years. It’s an inconvenience that it is closed and it should be sorted. But the council can’t proceed with it without knowing for sure who owns the bridge. The councillors just know there is a problem there and their constituents might not vote for them if they don’t sort it out. We are keen to see it open again as soon as possible.”
The original bridge is believed to have been how Longstone got its name, as it was a long stone across the Murray Burn. Part of the stone is still there, lying just to the west of the bridge. It was replaced in 1930 by the current steel and concrete structure, which has now been deemed unsafe.
Speaking about the ownership issue, Mr Campbell added: "If you are going to repair the bridge then you need to know who owns it. The estate department found that the Earl of Morton might owns it. I wrote to him but he never replied. The issue is currently with the city’s legal department. The Earl seemed to have something to do with the path in the past and he previously sold land there to extend the prison. The bridge could be repaired if they can find the owner.”
The Earl's private secretary declined to comment when contacted by the Evening News.
The report by Aecom in 2018 found that “the superstructure was found to be in fair condition with the exception of the trough deck which is in poor condition and requires repair”. It recommended repair of the “undermined section of south abutment and dislodged stone at the south-west wingwall”.
Local councillor Denis Dixon (SNP) is also keen to see a speedy resolution to this issue. He said: “I think as far as the council is concerned the land is owned by the Ear of Morton. The structure of the bridge was faulty underneath, so it was deemed dangerous to cross it. We need to get a resolution for this. The council needs to find out where they are going to take this, to get that path opened up again. The whole thing revolves around shared responsibility – that all owners need to get together on this.
"There’s a huge move by the locals to get that right of way opened again. But it went quiet after council officers were adamant that it wasn’t their responsibility to repair the bridge.”