Man '˜lucky to be alive' after masonry fall in West End

A man is 'lucky to be alive' after masonry fell just inches away from him on a busy Edinburgh street.

A piece of masonry, understood to be decoration, landed on the pavement at the corner of Shandwick Place and Queensferry Street. Picture: Contributed
A piece of masonry, understood to be decoration, landed on the pavement at the corner of Shandwick Place and Queensferry Street. Picture: Contributed

A section of decorative stonework crashed on to the pavement outside the Greggs store on the corner of Shandwick Place and Queensferry Street leaving witnesses stunned as to how no one was hurt.

The incident at the 177-year-old former bank building is directly across the road from Ryan’s bar where 26-year-old Australian waitress Christine Foster was tragically killed by tumbling blocks of masonry in June 2000.

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A shook-up 50-year-old woman was queuing outside the bakery at about 9am on Thursday when she heard what she thought was a “gun shot” sound coming from around the corner.

The resident, who phoned the police, told the Evening News: “A guy in the queue checked to see what happened.

“A man was stood looking purely shocked and looking up at the building after a part of it had fell and just missed him. It was frightening. I have no doubt in my mind that it would have killed him. It was rush hour and he was very lucky. It could have been anybody, a few minutes later it could have been me. I’m just relieved the man is not hurt.

Action now needs to be taken to make sure these buildings are safe for pedestrians to walk under.

A police officer took the masonry away while a small cordon was put in place until council staff carried out a full survey in the afternoon which was charged to the private owner of the property.

A council spokesperson said: “A full survey of the building, including the roof, was carried out yesterday afternoon and any defects posing an immediate risk will have been made safe. We will write to the owners advising them of the incident and sharing the results of the survey. It will be their responsibility to arrange any further repairs, should they be required.”

The close call has ignited requests for regular mandatory assessments to be carried out on the city’s old buildings as a matter of public safety following other falling masonry incidents injuring pedestrians on Dalry Road and Princes Street in the past 12 months.

Andy Watson, manager of the neighbouring Mathers Bar, 37, said: “Edinburgh is an old city and these buildings need regular checks to make sure they are safe, especially with the high winds we experience here. I’m glad no one was hurt and I hope things are being looked into to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “As someone who has worked at this location for 21 years, the Ryan’s Bar tragedy had enormous impact and was a real wake up call for a city with so many centuries-old buildings but weak systems for common repair and basic maintenance.

“Ultimately, private owners of buildings need to take responsibility for upkeep and safety and I’d like to see a much more proactive approach to inspection, perhaps using rapidly improving drone technology for those hard to reach places. History repeating itself is not an option.”

It is understood the city council has made previous representations to the Scottish Government seeking additional legislation into the maintenance of privately owned buildings in the country. The government were approached for comment but did not respond before going to print.

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The area where the masonry fell has now been cordoned off by police. Picture: Contributed