Salvesen Steps Update – November 2020
You may recall that earlier this year we joined a meeting with the council and consulting engineers where at last, a costing was revealed for the route around the rock-face that has been pursued for so long. The outcome was that the estimated cost had risen to a level far outside the range of anything realistically practical under present arrangements. On 27 October we took part in a meeting with officials of CEC Parks, Greenspaces & Cemeteries in which they put forward their proposal.
Attached below is our response. In this we express our regrets at the turn of events and our reluctant acceptance of the council’s initial planned action, More importantly we then propose what should take place to take the replacement project forward as this remains very important.
Throughout this process, we have kept our colleagues on the Cramond Association, Cramond & Barnton Community Council , the Cramond Heritage Trust and the Friends of Cammo, fully updated.
Please let us know any thoughts you have, and should you feel strongly, it would do nothing but good if views are also sent to our councillors and/or elected members of the Scottish and Westminster parliaments.
Salvesen Steps Replacement – Response to CEC Meeting 27 October 2020
Where we are
FRAW with the support of partner local organisations has pushed for eight years for the bypass solution to be designed, costed and implemented. The process has been unnecessarily delayed and complicated but the first two objectives have been achieved. The third objective has failed. Meanwhile the Steps have remained open (with two closures) and replaced on the south side with a temporary structure now lasting in excess of three years. CEC are keen to remove this temporary structure ASAP and their option is to install new steps. Sustrans role as a major funder needs clarification.
CEC Proposal to replace scaffolding with new steps
This was not unexpected. We were advised that the remaining capital sum for the bypass option cannot be relied on to remain in place beyond this financial year given the unprecedented financial pressure on CEC. Also the continuing drain caused by scaffolding (£1400 or so each month). CEC would like to start using some of this by commissioning a costing for the design and installation of replacement steps. CEC emphasised that to install a disability compliant structure remained firm policy and it would be hoped to continue the search for a solution after this together with Sustrans. FRAW expressed their concern that once new steps were installed, further work was unlikely to take place and that it overturned CEC policy going back many years (see attached Appendix) and that the need for a disability compliant solution if anything had increased.
Our Response – We recognise the CEC position and will not oppose its proposal. This is a bitter pill for us to take and we make the following points.
- When this proposal is submitted to the Culture & Communities Committee, the CEC long-standing policy of replacing the Steps with a DDA compliant solution should be confirmed and ratified by the Committee and that this should be progressed once the financial climate is more favourable.
- Any remaining capital funds after replacement steps are installed should be reserved for pursuing a DDA compliant solution.
- Should replacement steps be installed, cycle tracking and resting places should be included and that the dangerous northern steps should be replaced at the same time unless a long-term solution was actively confirmed and likely to be pursued within a reasonable period.
Where do we go from here?
If a DDA compliant solution is progressed it is necessary to know what is proposed and how much it is estimated to cost before any funding initiative can commence.
That new consultants be commissioned to take a fresh look at the options for a Steps replacement. Preparation to achieve precision for the brief is vital – more a case of Optioneering than detailed design work. As large amounts of material are available from previous consultants, minimal work on site would be required. Ideally it should be possible to quickly eliminate the non-starters and reduce the contenders to no more than two or even better one. Thus a solution would be agreed for eventual implementation.
A number of broad-brush notes are made below on various options. These are not meant to be definitive or detailed and are in no order of merit.
- Extra funding is likely to be required for any solution. This year SWECO arrived at a figure of £3.6M+ for the agreed and long awaited rock bypass option. This contrasts with the then consultant’s 2013 estimate of a construction cost of £630K. The 2014 construction estimate was £870 (the second cheapest option). Even taking into account inflation and that SWECO also includes path work and other upgrades; this raises questions about the process to date.
- A 200 year flood level stipulation requires that any structure must be designed to either be above it, unaffected by it, or adaptable to take account of it. The model used to calculate this is open to question as the consultants used for a flood study in 2012 (JBA Consulting) produced a level of 8.66m above Ordnance datum and this included an increase of flow of 20% to allow for the effects of climate change. SWECO’s flood study in 2016 produced a level of 11.35m above Ordnance datum i.e. 2.69m higher. The discrepancy must be resolved as there would be a major cost saving of the CEC option and all other possible options apart from a tunnel. If the JBA figure is correct, the ramps at each end would be 54m shorter and the supporting steelwork shorter.
- CEC are concerned that maintenance costs are as low as possible.
- Continue to progress the existing rock bypass scheme.
Advantages. First choice of the options offered to the local community – a developed and costed plan.
Disadvantages. Because of flood level calculation long and obtrusive ramps are required at each end. Many mature trees will need to be cleared above the structure and to accommodate the ramps. Structure will involve some maintenance costs. Excessive cost which may be mitigated by review of the flood level model, details of design specification, the 44 to 66% maximum bias (contingency) applied to entire project and the lack of rigour in rock anchor costings due to the lack of rock drilling tests.
- Two Bridge Solution.
Advantages. Favoured by Sustrans who calculate this to be within realistic funding resources as light-weight bridges are known engineering and commonly installed. Impact on the environment minimal and maintenance costs modest.
Disadvantages. Land use over river would be contentious. Conformity to 200 year flood requirement would signify same height above river and ramps as bypass scheme unless design adaptations are introduced.
3. 150m Tunnel
Advantages. A tunnel does not present any barrier to flood water and would be built into the cliff and unlikely to sustain damage from debris washed down in a flood. It would simply be allowed to flood which would pose no danger to users as the path would also be flooded and unusable for the duration of the phenomenon. Waterproof LED recessed lighting would reduce the possibly of damage. Outlook ports towards the river could be part of the design making it less claustrophobic and act as a hide. Environmental damage would be minimal as no trees would be removed. Some spoil could be utilised for path upgrading and installation of one metre high access ramps. Maintenance costs would be minimal.
Disadvantages. Access to the site for plant and possibly some spoil removal, as for other options, presents problems and requires careful treatment. May be considered a security risk by some users.
4.Causeway around the rock face.
Advantages. The cheapest option identified in the 2014 consultant’s report. A conventional piece of engineering with low maintenance costs. Like option 3 it would simply flood.
Disadvantages. Large amounts of material would be shipped into site with access limitations. Trees would need to be cleared from above it but not at each end. There may be a problem with constructing the causeway over a main sewer which is below the river bed. The river will require to be widened to compensate for reduced river width and a very complex SEPA licence will be required to carry out the work in the river. If proved practical, a pontoon solution might mitigate some of these disadvantages.
Advantages. Avoids engineering and costing uncertainties of bypass option. Uses existing top path. Reduces tree felling. Easier use by cyclists and other users than steps. Disadvantages. Not fully disability compliant as long 1 in 20 gradient obstacle remains for some. Not favoured originally as ugly and obtrusive – might be mitigated by the imaginative use of natural features and through trees – more difficult to achieve for south steps as narrow path bounded by private land?
A much cheaper solution to the CEC preferred option and uses the least amount of materials. Relatively low maintenance costs.
The Sustrans preferred width of 3m could not be provided on the high level section between the lifts, although 2m should be possible and that is the width accepted by Sustrans for the CEC cantilevered section. The remote location poses a security risk, although this can be reduced by CCTV monitoring. Not attractive to cyclists due to waiting time but updated steps could be retained as an alternative?
Extract from 2014 CEC Policy Briefing for Local Almond Ward Elected Members.
1. Replacement of the steps
One opinion would be to replace the existing structure like for like. This would be a significant cost (6 figures) but would not be DDA – compliant (Disability Discrimination Act 1995). It would not be prudent to progress a non-compliant structure, when compliant alternatives not only exist but have been scoped out, costed, and subjected to public consultation.
There is no easy alternative route. Consultation with the public, stakeholders and statutory bodies such as SEPA strongly indicates that a cantilevered steel structure taking the path out around the rocky outcrop is the optimal solution. This option would be DDA compliant, cycle friendly and allow prams and pushchairs unhindered progress.
The project features in several Council action plans as outlined below. It is supported by the Cycle development team and Sustrans, which is willing to co-fund the project at 50% provided that the structure meets its minimum standard. It will not fund a like-for-like replacement.
2. Status of the River Almond Walkway
The River Almond walkway is a designated Core Path, which means that the Council has a statutory duty under Land Reform Act (2003) to keep it open for use by the public, and promote it. The River Almond walkway is the off-road link between the coastal promenade and National Cycle Routes 1 and 75. As a green network it is of key significance.
The replacement of the Salvesen steps is an action identified in the draft West Edinburgh Strategic Development Area (SESPlan) – the area focussed on A8 corridor, Edinburgh Airport, tram route, land at Maybury, Cammo and Edinburgh Park identified for new housing-led development in LDP – and therefore has a relationship to West Edinburgh Planning Framework (WEPF), West Edinburgh Transport Appraisal (WETA), West Edinburgh Development Framework (WESDF), Rural West Edinburgh Local Plan Alteration (RWELPA),West Edinburgh landscape Federation ( WELF), Strategic Development Plan (SDP) and Local Development Plan (LDP).