Campaigners hand in new petition over Leith battle

Poem by Gordon Munro on the 'new' hoardings on the closed up businesses on Leith Walk'.
Poem by Gordon Munro on the 'new' hoardings on the closed up businesses on Leith Walk'.
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Protesters have handed in a petition with more than 12,000 signatures opposing a £50 million development on Leith Walk.

The city council refused the petition last month after more than 100 passionate campaigners gathered outside the city chambers saying the group had to go through a formal procedure.

Campaigners want to preserve the sandstone frontage on Leith Walk, which will be bulldozed if the recently submitted planning application from Drum Property Group is granted.

The developer also wants to build a facility incorporating a 523-bed student accommodation, 56-bedroom hotel, 53 affordable homes, restaurant, café and retail units.

But four members of Save Leith Walk returned with an improved 12,347-strong petition on Wednesday, which has now been submitted to the city’s planning committee.

Campaigner Ian Hood said: “We are chuffed that we have managed to get so much support. It was disappointing when the council did not accept our petition before, but the planning committee now has it with 12,347 signatures opposing the demolition of the new shops.

“Everyone knows the new shops and it helps characterise Leith. It is so important and we feel the support from the community to protect the historic building.”

The group has gathered huge backing since it launched and it has also been encouraging residents to register objections to the two planning applications on the council website – one for the demolition of the existing buildings and the other to build the mixed-use facility.

There are 736 objections to the demolition, with 13 
supporting comments, while the proposed development has 707 people against it with just 15 giving their approval.

Campaigners have voiced concerns regarding Drum’s decision to board up the empty units until Leith Depot’s lease expires in October next year. The firm says it will not consider any temporary lets as the firm prepares for whole site redevelopment.

The words of a poem 
written by Labour councillor Gordon Munro has appeared on the black hoardings, though the Leith representative would not comment as to how it got there.

He said: “I wrote it when I first saw the hoardings and I was so angry that these shops are not being used. There is a demand for these spaces in the city and instead they’re going to be boarded up.

“It’s the first poem I have written since I left school, but it has had a lot of attention and people seem to like it.

“I put my objections in this week and I think the level of support shows the range and diversity of the people in Leith.”

A public meeting is taking place with speakers from Save Leith Walk, Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman and the Cockburn Association at Out of the Blue on Tuesday.