Edinburgh roadworks halted after asbestos discovered in underground cellars

Controversial roadworks for the construction of a new cross-city cycle route have been halted after asbestos was found in the roofs of cellars underneath the pavement.

By Ian Swanson
Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 4:55 am

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The council stressed there was no risk to public health from the discovery at Roseburn Terrace, but there are fears it could several weeks to resolve the problem.

Businesses on the street, where work has been underway since the start of February, have already been complaining about a drop of up to 70 per cent in trade.

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Tory councillor Scott Douglas (left) with local traders Eva Papadaki and George Rendall.

An update from the project team said: “While excavating the footway on Roseburn Terrace, we encountered structural issues with the ceilings of the cellars adjacent to the Roseburn Bar and Roseburn Pharmacy, including pre-existing punctures through the cellar roofs.”

It said a review had been held to consider an alternative design to deal with the problem and concern was raised that some of the material present in the roofs of the cellars might contain asbestos. All work was stopped, the material secured and covered and an immediate specialist survey ordered.

“A surveyor from specialist Environtec attended site and subsequently confirmed that the material was asbestos cement.”

The update said this was a low-risk form of asbestos and its discovery was not necessarily a cause for concern.

There are fears the work could now be delayed by "weeks and weeks.

“In this type of material the asbestos fibres are very well bound into the matrix of the product and do not readily become airborne. As the risk to health is only from airborne asbestos fibres, the risk to both our contractors and the general public, is very low, especially in an outside environment. Nonetheless, the discovery does complicate the requirements for the development of an engineering solution to the punctures in the cellar roofs."

The plan is now to use a contractor to remove the asbestos and repair the roofs.

The project team said that having halted work, they had scaled back the work site on the south side of Roseburn Terrace as much as possible returning the remaining footway and the loading bay and parking bay to the public.

Corstorphine/Murrayfield Tory councillor Scott Douglas said he feared the work could take “weeks and weeks”.

Businesses have already been complaining about a dramatic loss of trade.

And he urged council help for the businesses affected.

"The roadworks are already causing huge issues for them and this is just going to mean they are suffering for longer.

"It’s going to be pretty tough for them to survive. My opinion is the council may need to step in and start providing actual help to ensure there is not long-lasting damage.

"While this is unforeseen, it is not the fault of these businesses that asbestos has been found and it’s wrong they should be the ones to suffer.”

The council says the work site has been reduced in size since the work has been paused.

The £19.4 million City Centre West to East Link (CCWEL) will create a safe and direct cycle route from Roseburn to Leith Walk as part of the council’s active travel investment.

The council said the asbestos issue only affected a small area and work would continue on other parts of Roseburn Terrace. Work would also be brought forward elsewhere in order to minimise the delay to the overall construction project.

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