Bell tolls for bridge canopy

FORTH ROAD BRIDGE bosses are set to spend £250,000 demolishing the canopy over the toll plaza after residents complained it ruined their view.

The 5 million toll booths have only been in place for just over a year but will be removed following the decision to scrap tolls by the government.

While removing the booths and rearranging the road layout will cost taxpayers up to 2m, it had been thought the canopy would be left in place to stop the bill spiralling further.

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But Tony Martin, convener of bridge operator FETA, today said residents have complained the canopy was spoiling their views of the Forth.

Fife councillor Mr Martin said: "It was not our intention to remove the canopy because it was felt it wouldn't interfere with traffic.

"However, because of significant community concern, I have asked [bridgemaster] Alastair Andrew to include removing the canopy in the contract for the overall scheme.

"A paper will go in front of the next board."

Edinburgh's Labour transport spokesman Ricky Henderson, today hit out the cost of removing the canopy.

He said: "The canopy should remain in place because it is far too early to rule out any future use for it. You have to remember that the canopy has the appropriate planning permission, so any issues relating to its height or anything else have been dealt with.

"To backtrack now because of a few local concerns would be a waste of money."

FETA came under fire in August last year after it emerged the canopy had been built in the wrong place.

Despite 49 letters of objection from neighbours living in the adjacent Stoneyflatts estate in South Queensferry, the canopy was given retrospective planning permission.

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Martin Gallagher, transport convener of Queensferry Community Council, said: "It is quite a U-turn from FETA but we are obviously delighted because this thing has been a scandal from start to finish.

"The visual impact of the canopy has blighted people's lives since it first went up.

"The money to do this work is not a lot in the context of the overall scheme."

The controversial canopy is likely to be still in place when tolls are removed from the bridge - expected to happen towards the end of January next year - as demolishing it will take longer than removing the booths.

Bridge officials are close to appointing a contractor for the road layout work but no date has been fixed for abolition of tolls, the original target is to lift the charges by the end of the year.

FETA will have to continue collecting tolls right up to the day the charges are scrapped. It is expected one or two of the tolling islands will be removed ahead of that date creating a normal two-lane corridor, which would be cordoned off until the day the tolls go.

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