CHUNKS of loose material have fallen off Edinburgh’s North Bridge and an inspection found heavily eroded steelwork and crumbling concrete.

A series of major repairs and refurbishments worth a total of £22 million are planned to fix the landmark bridge linking the Old and New Towns in the capital’s World Heritage Site.

Edinburgh City Council said the A-listed structure, which was built in 1896, has been made safe and that disruption would be kept to a minimum during the two-year project.

The cast-iron façade will be sandblasted and repainted under the plans, which will also see structural work carried out and joints replaced. Work will start in the summer if approved on Thursday by the city’s transport committee.

The council said “only occasional off-peak, overnight or weekend lane closures are anticipated”. However, it could lead to weight restrictions, possibly affecting buses and lorries while work is being carried out.

Paul Lawrence, council director of place, wrote in the report: “Over the past three years there have been a number of incidents of loose material falling from the underside and façade of the bridge. The work undertaken to date has addressed the immediate health and safety issues.”

Claire Miller, Green councillor for the City Centre, said: “North Bridge is a key part of our city infrastructure, so I welcome the comprehensive proposals to repair it. We will need to monitor the work to ensure that it is undertaken quickly and with minimal disruption.”

Joanna Mowat, Conservative councillor for the City Centre said North Bridge "again is an example of lack of maintenance of assets because money is spent on big new projects rather than upkeep of what we have".

Analysis: More traffic disruption lies ahead, but the end result may be worth it

She said: "The work takes so long because of access issues to the bridge from beneath - it will be a nightmare from a traffic management point of view and means more loading in The Mound which is a worry."

North Bridge was constructed in 1896 and little maintenance work has been undertaken on the bridge other than in 1933 when steelwork was replaced near road level and in 1990 when the topside of the bridge was waterproofed and the decorative façade was painted.

Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener, said: “This historic bridge is a familiar and much-loved focal point in the city centre, and it’s clear that it requires some much-needed restoration.

"Thanks to prudent financial management, we will be able to progress with a series of repairs, ensuring the longevity of this iconic structure.”

Analysis: More traffic disruption lies ahead, but the end result may be worth it

The council said a contractor with experience of similar projects was engaged early in the process in light of the complexity of the scheme.

Restrictions could push heavy vehicles on to surrounding streets where the Old Town Community Council has launched a campaign to make the area more navigable and called for better traffic flow management. It is also pushing for clutter to be reduced on the streets and its lanes better maintained.

Bill Cowan, of the OTCC, said: “The point we are making is that we need what actions can be taken now - mostly just enforcement - rather than grandiose vanity projects that will take years to complete.”

On Thursday, members will also hear about the potential for additional enhancements to public realm on the bridge, such as widened and decluttered footpaths and carriageway resurfacing.

Analysis: More traffic disruption lies ahead, but the end result may be worth it

Works to North Bridge include structural steelwork repairs, grit blasting and repainting of the steelwork, repairs to the cast iron façades, repairs to the underside of the bridge’s concrete deck, improvements to the drainage systems, replacement of expansion joints, restoration of, and repairs to, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers War Memorial, on the east plinth of the south pier.