‘Damaging’ short-term lets at centre of Leith Walk by-election campaign

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Housing and managing an influx of short-term lets will be at the centre of a by-election campaign as candidates set out their stall less than a month before voters go to the polls.

Residents in the Leith Walk ward of the Capital will vote on Thursday, April 11, following the resignation of former Labour councillor Marion Donaldson.

Leith Walk, Edinburgh (Drum Property Group site). Pic: Ian Rutherford

Leith Walk, Edinburgh (Drum Property Group site). Pic: Ian Rutherford

Candidates set out their priorities at a hustings at Leith Theatre, organised by the Save Leith Walk campaign, with issues including housing, hate crime and cuts to public services raised.

SNP candidate Rob Munn said that short-term lets were “sucking the life out of our streets”, adding: “People who are running these as businesses need to be regulated. They are having a damaging effect on the supply of properties. People are being squeezed out of the market.”

Conservative candidate Dan McCroskrie said that he “wants to work with the community, not against it”. He lives close to the proposed Stead’s Place development, which was refused planning permission earlier this year – and fully supports the campaign.

He added: “Although I’m new to this ward, I’m keen to get involved in the community irrespective of this result.”

Jack Caldwell, the Liberal Democrat candidate, claimed that short-term lets have “ripped the heart out of our stairwells” – and blasted cuts to community policing.

He added: “We need more social housing in the area.”

Labour candidate Nick Gardner added: “I’d like to see devolution used to give councils more powers to stand up to large businesses, more resources to promote high standards and more powers to compete in the commercial sector.

“Councils have vast resources and we could do more to raise our own money to stand on our own two feet. I’d like the council to have much, much more power and finance to buy up key local sites so that we can develop them to meet local needs.”

Green candidate Lorna Slater praised the work of her party colleague MSP Andy Wightman for his campaign tackling short-term lets and pledged to give the area a strong Green voice along with Cllr Susan Rae.

She said: “It would be so exciting to have another Green councillor in Leith Walk.

“This is one of the greenest parts of Scotland and Susan and I would be an unstoppable team.”

The Save Meadowbank 
campaign is also standing a candidate in the by-election, Kevin Illingworth, despite the sport stadium site being located outside the Leith Walk ward.

Mr Illingworth said: “We live in a city where it’s quicker to get a passport than it is to get an old mattress taken away.”

Socialist Labour Party candidate David Jacobsen said that “landlords should be evicted, not tenants”.

He added: “The Leith Walk constituency has the second largest density in population in all of Britain.”