Community farm idea forms alternative vision for Leith Walk

Save Leith Walk campaigners are looking at alternatives for Stead's Place. Pic: Google Maps
Save Leith Walk campaigners are looking at alternatives for Stead's Place. Pic: Google Maps
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Campaigners have published their ambitious alternative vision for the heart of Leith Walk. 

Drum Property Group had controversial plans for Stead’s Place unanimously turned down by Edinburgh City Council’s development management sub-committee in January.

The company has not yet launched an appeal, nor has it indicated that fresh plans will be submitted.

The company wanted to demolish a red sandstone building at Stead’s Place to make way for a hotel, student accommodation and flats.

The Save Leith Walk campaign has drawn up three alternative visions for the site to illustrate what could be provided at Stead’s Place and other development sites in the future. 

Campaigners are investigating how the vision could be used by developers to 
influence ideas and the possibility of a community buy-out of the Stead’s Place site if it becomes available. Community buy-out talks are at an early stage but discussions have taken place with a number of agencies who could support the campaigners if they decide to go ahead with that option. 

The group’s three visions have been drawn up to show a host of different ideas and initiatives that could be brought forward.

Anger has spilled over in recent months with the majority of the units on Stead’s Place lying vacant for the foreseeable future. Last August, The Bed Shop relocated to Bonnington after 40 years on Leith Walk.

Ian Hood, from the Save Leith Walk campaign, said: “These plans reflect what the people of Leith want and need. They are the result of meetings, workshops and hundreds of conversations with the people whose opinion matters most –folk who live and work in this area.

“Time after time we see developers, backed by the university, impose their ideas on a community. The end result is invariably something that’s driven by one objective – to make as much cash as possible for the money men and their partners.”

He added: “What we’re proposing might seem radical but it’s actually common sense. Work with the community to come up with a sustainable development that meets the needs of all parties – not just those looking to make a fast buck.

“Leith needs more social housing, more green space and places where small businesses can grow. A huge block of student flats isn’t what we need. 

“We urge Drum and their partners at the University of Edinburgh to work with us to bring our plans to life. Please stop thinking that you can ride roughshod over the people of Leith.”

The community cohesion elements of the vision include existing shops and businesses being “remastered” and small, low cost starter units being built and roof “pods” for small firms. Housing blocks could include “colony-style” flats, a block of social accessible housing for older and disabled people – while open space could be provided and space for open air markets and pop-ups.

An illustrative community housing model states “the land behind would be opened up to the community by creating a new archway through the centre of the building”. A range of different housing options include open market homes, intergenerational housing and co-housing could be provided – all to Passive House standard.

A shared guest house has also been touted to help “reduce the need for spare guest bedrooms” along with “affordable student housing owned by the community”.

Another approach could be a community enterprise model which could include a community bakery, a social enterprise and community space, housing with a “planted facade” and “incubator units” for media and creative firms. Large swathes of green space could include a petting zoo or community farm.

Drum declined to comment on the alternative vision.