Greetings and Happy 2021 to all our members!
Please accept our apologies for the lateness of this message – lots of excuses that we will not bore you with! Last year was difficult for so many but for some of us there was compensation provided by our living in such a lovely place. Let us hope that there is now some light at the end of the tunnel and that life will be able to open out progressively as the year advances.
For many charities and voluntary organisations 2020 was very challenging. For FRAW it was more disappointing and frustrating, as we were not able to take forward much of what we had in mind. Fortunately for us because of the generosity of our members, financial concerns have not been one of our worries. It is true that members have received ‘less bangs for their bucks’ last year, as the ungrammatical quote goes.
When work parties can resume remains up in the air but much of the Walkway is in reasonably good shape and extra growth can be dealt with in due course. However there has been a certain amount of progress made. We managed to hold a couple of good work parties and quite a lot of useful maintenance has been actioned by indivual members of our committee. To be more specific, this is mainly by our excellent work party leader John Crutchfield who will be awarded the FRAW Superman award. The ‘whale’ wood carving between Fair-a-far and the Salvesen Steps was also finally finished. As has been touched on previously, we continue to pursue the Salvesen Steps replacement and the Dowies Mill issues.
Things here are a little in a state of suspended animation as we await events and we will keep in touch as matters proceed.
With our very best wishes
The FRAW Committee
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).
Click here for FRAW News – November 2020
Click here for FRAW News – July 2020
Click here for FRAW News – March 2020
It’s time to renew…….
Here we are again at the beginning of a new “Membership Year” and we would be very grateful as existing members if you would continue to give us the valuable support of our work.
Your subscriptions and generous donations have enabled us to buy necessary equipment for work parties – tools, plants etc. Our volunteers have put in many enjoyable hours helping with work parties which enable us to improve and keep the Walkway attractive for everyone’s enjoyment.
We also continue to promote larger long-term projects such as replacing the Salvesen Steps, extending public access further up the river and ensuring that a good solution is found for improving fish passage on the weirs. Therefore the more members we have, the louder our voice becomes and the more likely it is that Councillors, Council Officials and other organisations such as funders will listen positively to what we have to say.
We hope you are pleased with the progress we have made to date, and are happy to support our plans for the future improvement of our Walkway.
Please renew your membership today using the form below. Our status as a Scottish Registered Charity requires us to know the names of all our members, so if there is more than one member in a household, please let us know.
Membership subscription is held at only £2 per household but we are very grateful to those who augment this with a donation of a bit more, which always helps towards the work we do along the walkway.
As many of you are aware, FRAW is now eligible for Gift Aid so your subscription and donation could be worth even more. If the person in your household who pays the subscription/donation currently pays UK Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax at least equal to the amount of the subscription/donation in the appropriate tax year, FRAW can reclaim the tax paid, currently 25p for each £1 given. Please complete the Gift Aid section when returning the form.
If, at any time, you wish to cancel the Gift Aid declaration, or you change your name or home address, or you no longer pay sufficient tax, please notify us as soon as possible.
Finally, membership is open to anyone who is interested in helping the group achieve its aims. If you know anyone who is not a member but would like to join, please encourage them to join us.
We look forward to your continued support.
Hon. Treasurer/Membership Secretary
FRIENDS OF THE RIVER ALMOND WALKWAY
Membership Form 2020/2021
I/We wish to continue our support for the Friends of the River Almond Walkway (FRAW)
NAME (S): …………………………………………………………………………………………………..
TEL NO: …………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Membership subscription remains at £2 per household but we are very grateful to those who augment this with a donation of a bit more, which always helps towards the work we do along the walkway, buying plants and tools.
Please make cheques payable to: Friends of the River Almond Walkway. Please do not send cash by post.
Our Financial Year runs from 1st March to the end of February each year.
Gift Aid Declaration
If the person who pays the subscription/donation currently pays UK Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax at least equal to the amount of the subscription/donation in the appropriate tax year, FRAW can reclaim the tax paid, currently 25p for each £1 given.
Please treat as Gift Aid, this and any future payments
I confirm I have paid an amount of UK Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax, at least equal to the tax that all charities you donate to, reclaim on your donations in the appropriate tax year (currently 25p for each £1 given).
I do/do not require a receipt for my subscription/donation (please delete as appropriate)
Please send or hand deliver your membership subscription/donation, along with this completed form, to:
Friends of the River Almond Walkway, c/o 27 Cammo Grove, Edinburgh, EH4 8EX
Please note that we send all emails as bcc’s, so please provide an email address as this reduces costs.
Friends of the River Almond Walkway
Scottish Registered Charity SC045077
July 2019 – Second work party clearing entrance at Cramond
August 2019 – FRAW response to CEC Dowies consultation report
September 2019 – Meeting Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP to discuss Dowies Weir
October 2019 – Meeting with CEC with partner local groups to discuss Dowies Mill Weir – CEC agrees to consider alternative to their preferred option
October 2019 – Council replaces sign message at School Brae car park.
October 2019 – Submission sent to CEC detailing counter proposals for Dowies Weir.
October 2019 – Top dressing applied to new path surfaces at Dowies & Peggy’s Mill.
October 2019 – Meeting with SWECO to discuss progress on Steps. Costing information delayed until 26 Nov.
November 2019 – Last brush cut in Community Woodland to prepare for further path work etc
November 2019 – Work party to continue clearing and burning brash in Community Woodland.
November 2019 – SWECO meeting to discuss costings etc for Steps replacement.
In our last FRAW News we promised to report on progress with the Dowies Mill Weir controversy and the Salvesen Steps replacement saga (now in 7th year and counting).
SALVESEN STEPS REPLACEMENT
A meeting was convened on October 30 attended by CEC officials & Councillors, SWECO the consulting engineers, Sustrans and a strong team from FRAW. It had been hoped that a costing would be presented to determine the viability of the project but this will not now be available until a meeting scheduled for the end of November. However, we saw a detailed computer simulation of the proposed structure – the fruit of the LiDAR drone survey made earlier this year. There followed constructive discussions of associated design, technical and costing issues. There is no doubt that the Steps replacement will be complicated and expensive but the good news is that Sustrans, the funding partner remains very keen on the project.
DOWIES MILL WEIR
A meeting was held between the Council and local organisations on 2 October. Our staunch opposition to the Council’s preferred option of removing the weir was again expressed and after discussion it was agreed that our alternative option would now be given consideration and that funding would be sought to carry this out. We were asked to provide a brief summation of what we are putting forward and submitted the following. FRAW are now preparing a detailed paper to help this matter to go forward.
Further to the meeting of 2 October 2019, FRAW in conjunction with the Cramond & Barnton Community Council, the Cramond Association and the Cramond Heritage Trust believe that the stated objective of improved fish passage at Dowie’s Mill Weir can be best be achieved by replacing the existing fish pass and implementing the W.S. Atkins Option 2 Easement (2015 Optioneering Study to Improve Fish Passage) with associated works.
This will result in the retention of the existing weir and millpond thus preserving the industrial and cultural heritage and beauty of the area. It will remove potential erosion to the right bank, particularly adjacent to the Class C listed mill cottages and will also reduce the scour risk to Cramond Brig and remove the potential costs of relaying the 150mm diameter sewer (£880,882) and gas main (£994,207). It also saves the environmental impact of removing 300m3 of bed sediment and transporting it to Teeside for disposal and associated cost of £127,000. In addition we believe that our preferred scheme will result in cost savings from the CEC proposed option in excess of £150,000. We also consider the Risk Register costs in the CEC option to be understated.
On 29 October an elite work party completed the work to resolve the serious mud problem that has prevailed on the ‘turning circle’ below Dowies Mill Cottages. Five builder-bags of whin dust were barrowed and spread to smooth the surface of the aggregate that had been laid previously.
When our order is received later this month, we plan to dig in plant coverage on the fence-line by the boat yard at the Cramond entrance of the Walkway. We also hope to continue to clear back growth in the area to improve the light there and remove and burn the large accumulation of ‘brush’. In addition, we plan to cut back and tidy-up the growth of unwelcome snowberry etc that regularly threatens to overwhelm the entrance to the Walkway by the gate at the Queensferry Road.
The vast majority of the trees planted in the Community Woodland continue to flourish splendidly. Brush cutting has taken place to reduce the enormous growth of other vegetation that has also flourished around the trees – the weather has been greatly favourable to growth of all sorts this year. Some wood-chips have been delivered and we plan soon to improve and extend the paths together with more clearance of areas around the fringe of the Woodland. Work Party Volunteers stand in readiness!
SCHOOL BRAE CAR PARK BARRIER
In our last FRAW News we reported our unhappiness with the intrusive and unwelcoming nature of the barrier sign erected by the Council. After discussion, it was agreed that this should be changed and the result before and after is shown here. We very much appreciate the flexibility and helpfulness shown by the officer concerned. This demonstrates yet again the value of the effective partnership that can be achieved between local groups and the Council.
The period since our last FRAW News has not been without its frustrations. Progress on the two major areas of concern, Dowies Mill Weir and the Salvesen Steps has been disappointing and we summarise below what the current position is to the best of our knowledge.
DOWIES MILL WEIR
FRAW, together with the bulk of locally expressed opinion remains staunch in its view that the proposals to demolish the weir are the wrong solution. In a nutshell, we believe, the proposal severely damages a local amenity and environment loved by many. The alternative of retaining and maintaining the existing weir not only delivers the improvements to fish passage while removing all the disadvantages and is significantly cheaper. However this has not been seriously considered by the promoters of the scheme.
It was greatly appreciated that so many people made submissions after the exhibition in February. To say that we were disappointed by the paper subsequently issued by the Council in response to these submissions would be an enormous understatement. We have in turn written a paper (as yet un-acknowledged) strenuously detailing our disapproval of its findings which has been copied to our members and local and national political representatives. A meeting for local representatives, rather than the community in general has been promised by the Council to discuss the matter and has now been set for early October.
The next stage is for a paper prepared by officials to be considered by the appropriate council committee (now changed from Transport & Environment to Culture & Communities). There would seem to have been some difficulty in preparing this document as it was not ready for the expected September meeting. We have also asked for an early copy of this document. When this proposal comes before the committee, now believed to be November, we intend to ask for a deputation to be heard together with our partner local organisations – the Cramond & Barnton Community Council, Cramond Association and Cramond Heritage Trust
SALVESEN STEPS REPLACEMENT
Earlier this year following vegetation clearance and a LiDAR survey by drone, we were upbeat about progress towards costing and final design. A schedule was issued specifying a suggested progress meeting for the end of June. Two months have now passed by and the consulting engineer now calculates that sufficient information will be in place to hold the meeting at the end of September. This is disconcerting. The problem is stated as being that the sheer volume of data produced by the LiDAR survey has taken greater resources and time than originally envisaged. For reasons that we find puzzling, test drillings are not now required as it is believed that sufficient data has been assembled to produce a costing for the project. We therefore hope that by October we will know if the replacement project is financially viable – the crunch point.
The need to complete the replacement of the steps is ever more apparent. The scaffolding was never intended to be anything other than a temporary expedient. Inspection and rental continues to notch up to thousands of pounds. In addition parts regularly require repair and replacement including a large number of new treads to be fitted soon.
As far as larger work parties are concerned we have had a bit of a rest during the summer months – largely due to awaiting materials. However, activities will soon re-commence. Members of your committee have attended to smaller jobs as they were required. We aim initially to complete the new path surface by Dowies Mill, add to the woodchip path in the Community Woodland and plant covering to the fence by the entrance to the Walkway by the boatyard. Our gallant work-party volunteers stand by!