Complaints over the condition of paving in Dundas Street at the spot where a man was impaled on iron railings were lodged almost a year ago, it has emerged.
Architect Steven Fraser wrote to city transport convener Lesley Hinds in August 2014, warning of an “epidemic” of loose and uneven paving slabs throughout the city’s historic World Heritage Site.
Despite Cllr Hinds pledging to pass his concerns on to the right council officials, Mr Fraser says precious little has been done to repair the city centre’s worst pavements, which he brands a “health and safety hazard”.
The West End-based architect says he believes council workmen are failing to make repairs and relay pavements properly, with weak foundations causing newly-laid paving stones to break loose faster than older footways laid decades earlier.
His complaints follow last week’s horrific accident at Dundas Street near the corner with Fettes Row, a spot pinpointed in his e-mail to senior council figures a year earlier.
On Thursday afternoon, paramedics, police and firefighters using hydraulic equipment were required to help free the man. Three iron railings had to be cut away to rescue him.
He was taken to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for treatment, although his injuries were thought not to be life-threatening.
The cause of his fall is unknown, but eyewitnesses and nearby business owners said the condition of the pavement was “shocking” and that “every day you can see people tripping up over it”.
On Friday, council staff conducted a “thorough investigation” of paving and reported “no defects were found” that could be blamed for the accident.
In a series of e-mails sent last year starting on August 11 to Cllr Hinds, city centre Tory councillor Joanna Mowat and area roads manager Graeme Paget, Mr Fraser set out the 13 “worst locations” where paving slabs were so loose they “could easily be lifted out by hand”.
He said: “This issue affects most of the World Heritage Site. Despite your assertion that there is an existing inspection regime, I don’t see any evidence that this problem has been noticed by the council. Otherwise the defects would surely not be so extensive and severe.
“I live in the city centre and see this when I am out for a walk. I have been reporting the problem since the end of last year, and despite asking for a full survey, repairs have so far only been localised and mainly restricted to the West End.”
Mr Fraser, who said he reported a number of faults via the third-party service FixMyStreet.com, concluded: “There should be a full investigation. Otherwise, pavements will continue to be badly laid. A comprehensive survey of city centre streets is now required as there are far too many issues for the public to report individually.”
Speaking to the Evening News, Mr Fraser said that “there didn’t seem to be much improvement” in the year since his complaints.
He said: “I felt the problem was just so widespread that initially I reported a few, but found that they weren’t being fixed properly, so I adopted a broad-brush approach and asked the council to do a proper survey.
“There didn’t seem to be much improvement. I feel particularly strongly about Princes Street. It’s still just as dire as it was. I think they should prioritise the work based on how important the street is and how busy it is.
“I’ve been trying to deal with this privately with Lesley Hinds. She’s in a difficult position as well, because she has to go to the council to get the work done. She has tried to get improvements made, but if I can see faults, then surely the council can see faults.
“I’ve just been on a health and safety course and I know that I wouldn’t leave a building in that condition. It’s a health and safety hazard.”
Conservative transport spokesman Nick Cook said that while no link had been established between the state of the pavement and the Dundas Street incident, “too many” residents were being let down by a lack of progress on repairs.
He said: “We are again in a position where Edinburgh taxpayers are taking time to highlight defects to the council, in this case on Dundas Street and elsewhere, but going away feeling their concerns are not being acted upon.
“The Capital coalition like to make much of their ‘investment’ in roads and pavements. However, despite being in power for three years, residents are still – in too many cases – waiting to see any sign of improvement.”
A council spokeswoman was unable to confirm what work, if any, had been carried out on the 13 sites identified by Mr Fraser. However, she said paving stones bordering the kerbs of Dundas Street damaged by pavement parking were replaced recently.
She added that the council uses its own in-house online reporting system for damaged roads and pavements.
Cllr Hinds said: “Major repairs to fix stretches of damaged pavement on both sides of Dundas Street were carried out just over a year ago during a four-week operation.
“We also make regular walking inspections of pavements and inspect all reported defects, which are then scheduled for repair, if required, using a prioritisation system.
“We have pledged to spend an additional £5 million from this year’s budget to maintain and develop roads and pavements, which includes expanding the workforce dealing with loose and cracked slabs, bringing the total spend to more than £20m.”
MIND THE GAPS
The problem pavements Edinburgh City Council was warned about . . .
• Festival Square off Lothian Road – several very large stone paving slabs loose and rocking unsafe.
• Rutland Square near the footbridge over the West Approach Road.
• Lothian Road.
• The Royal Mile, especially the north side from the City Chambers to the Canongate.
• Princes Street, especially the south side.
• St Andrew Square outside Harvey Nichols department store.
• Picardy Place at Cathedral Lane, outside St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.
• George Street.
• Dundas Street, especially near Fettes Row.
• Shandwick Place. For example, outside the La Piazza Italian restaurant.
• Fountainbridge and East Fountainbridge.
• Grove Street.
• Dalry Road.