Weather: Masonry fall as winds batter Edinburgh

Scaffolding is erected as police stand guard  following the masonry fall in Earl Grey Street. Picture: Toby Williams
Scaffolding is erected as police stand guard following the masonry fall in Earl Grey Street. Picture: Toby Williams
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FREEZING winds of up to 50mph are expected to hit the Capital this weekend, leading to fears for the city’s crumbling architecture.

Police closed a section of Earl Grey Street yesterday after a section of stonework was sent crashing to the street four storeys below.

No-one was injured and firefighters and building control officers moved in to check the building above the Salvation Army charity shop was safe.

Met Office forecasters predict high winds and freezing conditions over today and tomorrow, with between 3cm and 6cm of snow expected on high ground.

City stonemason Iain Mcarthur, of IMC Stonemasons, who has more than 25 years of experience in the trade, warned that such weather conditions could wreak havoc on the city’s stonework.

He said: “This kind of weather is when stonework is really put to the test, that’s why regular checks and maintenance are key.

“Any cracks are expanded further by the freezing conditions and the high wind then whips it away. Often people only think about stonework when something blows off.”

It is just the latest case of falling masonry to cause an alert on Edinburgh’s streets. Last November, two cladding panels fell from the roof of the Next store on to Princes Street 30 feet below.

City council building control officers have erected a “crash deck” of scaffolding to protect pedestrians and motorists from any further falls at the Earl Grey Street site.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are investigating this latest incident regarding falling masonry and property services have erected scaffolding to protect passers-by from any further debris.”

It came as the cold snap which is sweeping the country continued to batter Edinburgh and the Lothians. Such was the wind’s force that a trapped driver had to be rescued from his overturned articulated lorry after the vehicle was blown over into a ditch in Midlothian yesterday on the A701 south of Leadburn.

The man suffered minor whiplash injuries, with the road closed for two hours to allow a police investigation to take place.

Yellow warnings were in place for snow across the Lothians today, with ice predicted to be a problem mainly on untreated surfaces.

Highs of between 0C and 3C across the weekend are forecast to feel as cold as -6C when windchill is factored in.

Met Office forecaster Helen Chivers said the heaviest snowfall would happen in Dumfries and Galloway along with western parts of the country, but the Lothians could still expect to be battered by wintry conditions leading into a bitter pre-Easter week. She said: “It’s staying windy, but the snow will peter out fairly early in the day. We’re not expecting it to turn any warmer in the near future. We’ll carry on getting these easterly winds coming in from western Russian and northern Europe. The cold weather’s staying with us.

“There will be occasionally some snow showers coming in from the North Sea, which will effect the Edinburgh and Lothians area, but they don’t look as though they’re going to be terribly heavy. The emphasis through next week is frosty nights and cold days.”

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Saturday will see major challenges for motorists. Our advice to those in the worst-hit areas is to consider how important your journey is before deciding to travel.”