Bridging the gap, a new landmark for Leith

It is hoped disused railway lines could be used for the bridge
It is hoped disused railway lines could be used for the bridge
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ONE OF the key thoroughfares affected by disruption from Edinburgh’s tram works would become home to a major new “green bridge” under a bid to kick-start its regeneration.

Disused railway lines which used to run across Leith Walk – one of Scotland’s longest streets – would be brought back into use and linked by a striking new structure if funding can be secured for the project.

An artist's impression of the proposed bridge

An artist's impression of the proposed bridge

And the bridge would become home to walkways and community-run gardens, such as those which feature on similar structures in New York, Paris and London.

It is hoped the new bridge, which would replace one demolished in 1980, will revive long-delayed plans to transform Leith Walk into Scotland’s answer to Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

Part of a £3.2 million fund, set aside to “restore” Leith Walk and the waterfront after they were dropped from the tram project, could help pay for the bridge.

Councillors have backed the idea, which is to be taken forward along with plans to create new public squares, remove dozens of parking spaces, create a dedicated cycle lane and install new works of art and trees.

French architect Pierre Forissier, who has an office just off the thoroughfare, has been working with the city council and campaign groups, such as Greener Leith, to get his plans off the ground.

His plans, published for a Leith Walk summit earlier this week, would see a continuous route created from Pilrig Park in north Edinburgh to Gordon Street, near Easter Road football stadium.

He said: “The route requires a new bridge over Leith Walk where the old train bridge once was and it would be used by pedestrians and bicycles.

“The new gardens would allow neighbours of all backgrounds to share time and experience to become the new eco-citizens of Edinburgh.

“There are similar structures in New York, which has the High Line, and the Coulée Verte in Paris, which have both used old railway lines.

“I really hope it will be taken forward as it could help open up Leith Walk to other parts of the city. It would also help mark your arrival in Leith as you come down the Walk.”

Gordon Munro, deputy economic development leader at the city council, said: “There are several priorities for improving Leith Walk, such as removing the amount of clutter on the street and making it much more pedestrian-friendly.

“But there is also a desire to make sure it is not just about returning Leith Walk to what it was like before the tramworks.

“There have been a few ideas for bridges in the past, but something like this could create a real landmark. It would also bring the old railway lines back into use, which are an important part of Leith’s heritage.”

However, business leaders said they were sceptical about the idea and called for more effort to go into improving the look of Leith Walk.

Keith Hales, spokesman for Leith Business Association, said: “In an ideal world this would definitely be worth looking at, but it’s difficult to see the funding being available. The council should be looking at things like reducing the number of bins cluttering up the street.”

However, Charlotte Encombe, chairwoman of Greener Leith, said: “You only have to look at the success of the Green Bridge over Mile End Park in London to see what a difference this kind of thing can make.”