Shops ready to cash in on £4m facelift funding pot

Shop fronts on Leith Walk could be in for revamps
Shop fronts on Leith Walk could be in for revamps
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HISTORIC buildings and shop fronts in the city could be set for a facelift if a funding bid for around £4 million gets the green light.

The council is applying for a Historic Scotland grant that would be used to boost Leith Walk and the Southside by inviting business owners to bid for cash to revamp shop fronts.

Money from the funding pot, designed to help regeneration and conservation schemes, has been awarded to city projects in the past, with £480,000 offered to finance conservation initiatives in Leith.

Projects likely to feature in the bid to Historic Scotland include the repair of listed buildings, shop front grant schemes, small building repairs and training and education plans.

A report set to go before planners said: “The focus for this bid would be improving the health of the local community as well as heritage 
regeneration.”

Councillor Ian Perry, convener of the planning committee, said if the bid was 
successful it would be a 
“welcome boost” for the two areas. He said: “We intend to submit the two bids on the basis of the needs of the areas and in response to local businesses and residents.

“We are always looking at ways to invest in Edinburgh’s conservation areas.”

Councillor Cameron Rose, who represents Southside and Newington, said: “This is very much to be welcomed. We have had schemes before which have helped stimulate business owners to maintain their shop fronts which have been very successful in the past.

“World Heritage does it very successfully with limited funds so I welcome this as a much needed boost to help hard-pressed business owners,” he added.

If Historic Scotland rubberstamps the city’s application, the funding programme would run from April 1, 2013, until March 31, 2018.

Keith Hales, vice-chair of the Leith Business Association, said making additional funds available to businesses would not “do any harm” but was sceptical over how much of the grant would be distributed to firms.

“If the money is coming from Historic Scotland their agenda would be different to the businesses and what they want,” he said.

“In my opinion, I would have thought most of the money will be taken into Leith Library and Leith Theatre which are in a state of 
disrepair.

“I think that’s where the money will end up going but I would be pleasantly surprised if it didn’t.”

Mr Hales added that the Leith Business Association had discussed the concept of “soft loans” before with the council and the idea had “generally gone down pretty well”.

But he said: “To be honest we have always had promises of extra money but when it comes down to it, it doesn’t reach the source that it would be best applied to.”