Developer slammed for decision to board up vacant Leith Walk units

Protesters against a £50 million development on Leith Walk have called the developer's decision to board up vacant units as an act of 'cultural vandalism'.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 6:00 am
The block of shops includes popular bar Leith Depot. Picture: Greg Macvean

Businesses are gradually moving out of the historic site due to the expiration of their leases as Drum Property Group plans to build a mixed-use scheme of 54 affordable houses, 500-bed student accommodation, a 50-bedroom hotel and retail space including a new live music venue.

Campaigners have branded the boarded up shop frontages as an “eyesore” feeling the units could still be a part of the community in the short-term.

The boarding is likely to be there for the long-run with music venue being the final firm to depart in October 2019.

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Alan Moffat, owner of Leith Recording Company, will be forced to leave the building on October 4 once his current lease expires.

After building the business up from his home, he moved into the building 19 months ago and has enjoyed great success. But now he faces closing his business for at least six months and taking up a part-time job due to having nowhere to go.

He said: “I can’t afford to move premises. I have around £150,000 worth of equipment to move and I can’t operate it from home.

“It is likely to cost around £10,000-£15,000 to kit a new place up with soundproof materials and getting it how I need it. This current building is an ideal location and it’s such a shame I can’t stay, even on a month by month basis. They want us out as soon as possible and it’s heartbreaking.

It is really depressing to see the buildings now become such an eyesore.”

Drum has confirmed it is not considering any temporary lets and will be submitting a planning application “shortly” as the firm prepares for whole site redevelopment.

But it is open to suggestions from community groups for public art projects along the shop front hoardings.

A spokesperson for Drum Property Group said: “Many of the shop fronts on this section of Leith Walk have lain empty for many months with some vacant prior to our ownership – either because the occupiers have come to the end of their lease or they have ceased trading and moved out. Drum is responding to requests from existing tenants, including Leith Depot, to make sure these vacant units are kept clean, safe and secure as well as removing graffiti and flyposting which is a real problem on the site. Our insurers also require us to make these units secure as they may be empty for some time.

“We are not considering any temporary uses of units as we are preparing the whole site for redevelopment. The industrial site which sits immediately behind the shop frontages will be empty by the end of August, and the offices above will be empty by the end of September. We would, however, be delighted to consider any suggestions from community groups for public art projects along the shop front hoardings.

“We will shortly be submitting a planning application for the whole site, including the industrial units behind the shop frontages. Following our extensive consultation programme, we have attended meetings with the Council and other local stakeholders in recent weeks, and our application is being revised to address points raised in those meetings.

“We remain very positive about the future of the site as a major step forward for the local community and the wider Leith Walk area and will be continuing to work closely with local people and businesses throughout the planning application process to ensure their views and opinions are taken on board.”