Euan McGrory: Is Leith Walk plan ‘gentrification’ or is it progress?

Plans for Stead's Place on Leith Walk
Plans for Stead's Place on Leith Walk
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The future of part of Leith Walk has become something of an unlikely cause celebre.

The row of shops is perhaps best known as home of two independent businesses, the long-established Bed Shop and the celebrated music venue Leith Depot. Among the high-profile supporters of a campaign to halt a £50 million redevelopment are Irvine Welsh and Jeremy Corbyn.

The campaign - founded largely on fears small independent traders will be squeezed out in favour of multi-nationals and chains - has been passionate and well fought, leaving the developers somewhat on the back foot.

Today the developers have spelled out just what they think their plans can offer, including a repeat of a promise to build a new music venue on-site and offer existing tennants good deals to return. There would be new footpaths and cycle lanes from the Walk to Pilrig Park and 50 affordable homes. It seems unlikely, however, to placate the protesters at this stage.

There is no doubt the scheme would transform the area. The arrival of 500 students in the proposed accommodation block - alongside a small university-operated hotel - would bring new life into the area, significantly boosting local shops and, ironically, you would assume, any local music venue. Some will view it as ‘gentrification’, some will view it as progress.