Mountaineering Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, ScotWays and the Cockburn Association have pledged to keep working together towards the reopening of Edinburgh’s Radical Road and access to climbing on Salisbury Crags.
In response to a joint letter from all four organisations expressing concerns about the current closure a constructive meeting was held recently with Historic Environment Scotland. Representatives from the partnership underlined their unhappiness with the closure and the way it was carried out but offered to work together with HES to help get access reinstated.
Historic Environment Scotland manages Holyrood Park and following several rockfalls from Salisbury Crags, had installed metal barriers and notices warning of the hazard in 2018, stopping people walking along the Radical Road, below Salisbury Crags. This historic Right of Way was used by many hundreds of walkers a day at peak times. Its closure effectively prohibited recreational access for walkers and to the South Quarry, which offers some of Edinburgh’s best bouldering.
The Radical Road, sitting above the Scottish Parliament building, is one of the key features of Holyrood Park and has been enjoyed by visitors and a great many residents of Edinburgh and surrounding area. At the recent meeting a team from HES, including Chief Executive Alex Paterson, explained their approach, with regular geophysical checks indicating that the risk of rockfall is high and increasing, and several tons of rock having already fallen.
HES indicated that the likely outcome is a combination of more inspection and more physical intervention, with a need to find a balance between their statutory obligations and enabling access.
Although HES could not state definitively when the Radical Road will re-open, the intent appears to be to do the closer inspections, then schedule re-opening – perhaps partial – as and when the necessary works are done. HES has however made a welcome commitment to produce a management plan, the first draft of which is expected this autumn, and that this will provide an opportunity for the public and key stakeholders to comment on the proposed options.
Ramblers Scotland Director Brendan Paddy said: “We recognise that HES is considering people’s safety on the path, but we remain concerned that this process has already taken four years, with no definite end in sight. We welcome HES’ commitment to produce a management plan this autumn, as the sooner this iconic Right of Way can be reopened for residents and visitors the better.”
Mountaineering Scotland, CEO Stuart Younie said “We pointed out to HES that this was a piece of natural geology rather than a historical building and that it was impossible to make an outdoor environment entirely risk-free, and a more proportionate response to managing the level of risk was required.”
ScotWays’ Senior Access Officer, Eleisha Fahy, said: “Whilst HES has now explained why it took the approach it did, although we remain disappointed at its failure to follow correct legal processes for temporarily closing a right of way, pragmatically we anticipate this to be the beginning of more effective communication with stakeholders about public use of Holyrood Park. We look forward to HES re-opening the historic and well-loved Radical Road as soon as possible.”
James Garry from the Cockburn Association added: “The Cockburn welcomes the commitment to prepare a management framework for consultation later this year. The Radical Road is just one issue of many to be considered as part of it, but we welcome the position, mutually agreed by all, to reopen the route in a safe and proportionate manner in an as soon as practical timescale.”
At the conclusion of the meeting all parties agreed to continue the discussions and meet again later in the year once further work had been undertaken to assess the risk and investigate the potential options that would enable access to be reinstated.