It has been a privilege to have worked in Leith over the past few months. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve worked outside the city centre, and it’s been great to feel the tangible energy and dynamism in Leith. It’s also great to see for the first time in modern history that Leith is fast becoming the thriving community that residents, politicians and community groups have fought so long and hard for it to become.
Regeneration in Leith began in the early 1980s when the “Leith Project” was first established. In those days people’s lives were devastated by mass unemployment and the deprivation brought on by rates of 20 per cent long-term unemployment, recession and decline. It was the era of the Trainspotting generation.
Positive change started in the ’90s with the development of Ocean Terminal, Victoria Quay, new flats and offices, and of course the opening of Malmaison Hotel in 1994. It helped create one of the most stylish areas of the city. Roll forward to the downturn post-2007, and investment stalled significantly.
However, economic recovery and development is back. Crane spotting rather than Trainspotting is the order of the day in what is increasingly recognised as one of the UKs most trendy and attractive communities. Cutting-edge regeneration is also being achieved by Leithers Don’t Litter, one of the leading organisations of its kind in Scotland. LDL’s work is ambitious and genuinely transformational with a mission to change Leith forever, improving the environment and quality of life for all its residents. They are heroes and deserve everyone’s support.
So, what of the concerns about house price rises and people feeling that they may be “priced out of the area”? Those concerns are understandable, but the “growing pains” of success are a far easier challenge than the pain of recession and decline.
House prices are rising and whilst that brings challenges, it creates opportunities as well. More housebuilding will help take the heat out of price growth and deliver more homes for rent.
For too long the cloud of deprivation has hung over one of Edinburgh’s most important communities. Unlike previous generations where lives were cut short by ill health and poverty, a child born in Leith today will have a life that is longer, happier and healthier, and that life will have opportunities beyond those of any generation in nearly a thousand years of history.
That child will start life in a Leith already vibrant can look forward to a quality of life comparable to almost anywhere in the world. It will benefit from living in a world class part of a world class and dynamic city where investment and jobs flow. And, thanks to the council’s commitment to build the Tram, the next generation of Leithers will be connected to jobs and opportunities on a scale never before achieved. The sun is shining on Leith and on Leithers with the achievement of long-held goals of securing jobs and prosperity. Let’s make sure it happens.
Donald Anderson is Director of Playfair Scotland