Leith Walk campaigners to deliver 10,000-signature petition

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Campaigners against a proposed £50 million development in Leith will today hand in a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to the city council’s planning committee.

Save Leith Walk was formed by concerned residents who say Drum Property Group’s plans ignore the historical significance of the street with the designs not in keeping with the surrounding culture and heritage of the area. The developer has submitted plans to the council to build a facility incorporating a 500-bed student accommodation, 56-bedroom hotel, 53 affordable homes, a restaurant, café and retail units.

Picture: Martina Cannon-Ball/Save Leith Walk

Picture: Martina Cannon-Ball/Save Leith Walk

Drum’s vision sparked protesters to unite with more than 10,000 signatures opposing the development, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, The Proclaimers and Irvine Welsh, and has cross-party backing from local politicians.

Protesters will gather outside the City Chambers at 1pm ahead of the city council’s planning committee as the group hopes to prevent the demolition of the shop frontages on Leith Walk.

Meanwhile Save Leith Walk has sent an open letter to Drum Property Group urging the firm to reverse its decision to board up the empty units for at least the next 14 months. It comes after Drum said it will not consider any temporary lets as the firm prepares for whole site redevelopment.

The letter reads: “Given that the building will be occupied by local business until October 2019, we are requesting that the units be put to better meanwhile use and independent businesses, pop-ups, social enterprises and studio spaces be allowed to use these much-needed spaces for the next 16 months.

“The boarding-up of shop fronts has brought a sense of dereliction to a perfectly structurally sound building and will likely encourage antisocial behaviour, which is not of any benefit for the Leith community.

“As a responsible developer with a significant financial stake in Leith, we hope you will consider allowing the block to be used, thereby having a temporary positive impact on the community.”

The letter has been signed by council leader Adam McVey, who told the Evening News: “Leith Walk is one of the most vibrant high streets across the country because it is full of diverse, local businesses.

“Even if planning permission is granted for this development, the building won’t be demolished for more than a year. That’s a lot of time that the shop fronts in particular could play host to local businesses and creatives looking for temporary space.

“To have a predominantly empty, boarded-up building until autumn next year, or longer, denies our community the economic benefit and vibrancy that using these spaces could add in Leith.”

Deidre Brock Edinburgh North and Leith MP added: “Boarding-up some of this block is damaging for the remaining businesses and creates a real eyesore in a thriving part of Leith Walk.

“I don’t want the building to be demolished at all, but surely it’s better if the units are put to good use instead of running the place down. I urge the developers to show a bit of goodwill here and let the community make use of these spaces for the benefit of everyone who lives here.”