Leith residents used to making use of the bridge at West Bowling Green Street as a safe, traffic free route for cycling or walking have been in touch with Greener Leith to share their frustration with Forth Demolition – the firm demolishing buildings on either side of the road near the river.
The firm is in the midst of a sizable demolition job which is the first step towards building around 113 new flats on the site.
One resident of the Quilts explained that despite objecting to the closure of the street and recieving assurances from council officials that the builders would keep the road open to pedestrians and cyclists wherever possible – in practice this has not happened, and the bridge has simply been closed off.
At weekends when no work is underway for example, the route over the river remains resolutely blocked, with a more dangerous and a far less convenient diversion indicated on the signs attached to the railings.
Although, the firm apparently claimed that it was necessary to close the road completely to deal with asbestos in the buildings, our correspondent says that they spoke to people employed by the firm who oversee the asbestos removal from the site.
They report that workers confirmed the presence of asbestos on the site but they said it was not present in large quantities or difficult to deal with. Furthermore, it would appear to locals that all the asbestos has now been removed – and indeed it’s pretty clear to anyone looking at the site that buildings have now largely been demolished.
However, the firm has been granted permission by the council to close the road entirely until the end of January 2013.
Locals remain concerned that the Forth Demolition will simply keep the road closed for the duration of the work – regardless of the inconvenience caused to residents and commuters from further afield who use the bridge.
And our correspondent in the Quilts is also keen to point out that the demolition work is just the start of a huge project to build hundreds of new flats on the site.
Now that this Traffic Order has set a precedent, will council officers decide to side with the developers when it comes to building the flats? That could mean years more worth of inconvenience for local residents.
Forth Demolition have been contacted and invited to provide a comment to this blog post. We’ll post it here if we receive anything back from the firm.
Stephen McCann from Forth Demolition said in an emailed response that it has not been possible to open the road up to date, as the firm has needed to use the area for storage.
He also says that the firm “reserves the right” to keep the access road closed and challenges local residents assertions that the alternative route is more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians:
He said: “Forth Demolition feel it’s necessary to block up West Bowling Green Street as there is still ongoing demolition works requiring the use of the road as a transit route for the excavators.
“As you are no doubt aware until last weekend the road was used as a storage area and as such we will not open the road up until the street is no longer in use.
“Unfortunately you are not aware of the full extent of our programmed works.
“The asbestos removal works did indeed conclude on Friday afternoon.
“The buildings are demolished yet this is not the extent of our contract nor is it ever the extent of any demolition contract, the demolition works will be finished once the floor slabs are removed and the existing foundations are removed and since some of these may be retaining to the existing street this may pose a concern.
“The alternative route is not more dangerous and I find it preposterous for this to be written as there is a footpath all the way causing no risk whatsoever, less convenient however is correct.
“Our intention is as was discussed with Edinburgh Council, to open the road up for pedestrian traffic at the earliest opportunity, we do however reserve the right to keep the access route closed. The problem we face is not opening the access up but re-closing it after the weekend.”