Traders who suffered tram works get say at hustings

Tracy Griffen

Tracy Griffen

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POLITICIANS are to be put on the spot over what they will do to bring life back to Leith in the wake of development failures.

Representatives of all the main parties are due to appear tomorrow at a hustings organised by the Evening News and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Among the issues expected to be raised is the plight of traders in and around Leith Walk who have suffered from Waterfront and tram project plans stalling.

Personal fitness trainer Tracy Griffen, 38, who has her studio in Balfour Street, said the area used to have a buzz of optimism with the prospect of the Waterfront development.

But she said after all the disruption and inconvenience of the tram works, the mood had changed.

She said: “There is an air of disappointment. Leith was heralded as having a great future with the Waterfront, then we had the recession and nothing was getting built.

“Then it became clear the trams weren’t going to come here after all.

“Businesses have been struggling in this area. People keep asking when Leith Walk is going to be put back to the state it was in before the tram works with the clock and the pigeons and the things that made Leith Walk Leith Walk.

“There are so many shops shut down because of the roadworks and now struggling to reoccupy. We need a revitalisation.”

Ms Griffen, who moved to Edinburgh from Australia 15 years ago, said: “Part of the reason I opened my business in Leith was the understanding there were going to be more people living there and Leith Walk was going to be a gateway to this development.

“What I want to see is a clear vision for Leith, including not only local businesses but residents as well. It’s not a big ask. It was getting there and then it went wrong.”

Ruth McKay, chair of the Edinburgh branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said another key issue was the need to help independent retailers.

She said: “What we are greatly lacking in Edinburgh is any character in terms of retail. Why would you come to Edinburgh to shop as against anywhere else in Scotland, especially when you are up against parking issues and the tram works?

“Edinburgh used to be known for its independent shops. There has to be a plan to encourage independent retailers back into the city centre.”

Business rates, parking charges, increased bus fares and the tram works were all hampering traders in the city centre, she said.

n Tomorrow’s hustings is in the Point Hotel, Bread Street, from 6pm to 8pm. The Evening News has a selection of tickets for the event, so email edelect@edinburghnews.com with your name, address and “hustings” in the subject line for the chance to secure a place.

City meetings

Thursday April 19

• 6.30pm Craigmillar hustings at Hays Business Centre.

• 7pm Leith Walk hustings at Broughton St Marys Parish Church, Bellevue Crescent.

• 7pm Edinburgh’s Active Citizenship Group hustings, chaired by broadcaster Lesley Riddoch, at the City Chambers.

• 7pm Forth ward hustings at Muirhouse Millennium Centre

• 7.30pm Hustings for Inverleith ward, organised by Craigleith Blackhall community council at St Columba’s Church.

Monday April 23

• 7.30pm Corstorphine/Murrayfield hustings at Murrayfield Parish Church.

• 7.30pm Hustings for the Pentland Hills ward at Balerno Parish Church.

Tuesday April 24

• 7pm Hustings for Inverleith ward at Drylaw Neighbourhood Centre, off Groathill Road North.

Wednesday April 25

• 7pm Portobello/Craigmillar hustings at Portobello Town Hall.

• 7pm City Centre ward hustings at Broughton St Marys Parish Church, Bellevue Crescent.

Thursday April 26

• 7pm UNISON Hustings at Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge.

• 6pm Forth ward hustings, Royston/Wardieburn community centre, Pilton Drive North.

Friday April 27

• 5.30pm Edinburgh Student Forum council hustings, Teviot Study, Bristo Square.