Edinburgh tram extension to Newhaven will mean big changes for Leith – John McLellan

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For good or bad, Leith is now firmly on the tourist map

Will Leith TV production company Freakworks quit their headquarters on The Shore because the adjoining warehouse will now be turned into a 45-bed aparthotel? That was the threat before planning permission was granted last week, but with one week to go before the tram to Newhaven opens for passengers, Freakworks chief Hamish Alison’s view that Leith “doesn’t need a mega aparthotel” was unintentionally enlightening.

For good or bad, by providing a direct link to the airport through the city centre, Leith is now firmly on the tourist map and, far from not needing aparthotels, this could just be the first of many and the start of the transformation of the old port into something locals have not been led to expect. Gentrification of Leith has been a “thing” for decades, but then it was the new creatives like Freakworks who got the bad rep for threatening Leith’s gritty, blue-collar, Trainspotting image, so it’s ironic that they too now feel under threat.

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Maybe Freakworks’ boss is right to freak out at the changes around him, but with the tram and the combination of controlled parking zones and the council’s policy of encouraging housing developments on industrial sites, the pace of change will only accelerate. Only this week I heard a long-established engineering firm is now considering moving out of town because its premises are becoming increasingly difficult to access, and while the port itself will continue in industrial use as the core of the new green freeport, everything else is up for grabs.

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