Keith Anderson: Collaboration needed on Leith, North Edinburgh

A COLLABORATIVE approach is required to enable Leith and North Edinburgh to fulfil its potential for years to come, says Keith Anderson

Wednesday, 27th April 2016, 11:44 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2016, 12:54 pm
26,000 people living within 800 metres of Leith Walk. Picture: Toby Williams

Leith and parts of North Edinburgh occupy a unique place in the history of the city. Having been through significant change, these communities face a number of distinct social and economic challenges which still require urgent attention.

But the challenges in Leith and North Edinburgh are by no means unique and you will find similar examples in former industrial towns all across Scotland. However, there are some distinctive factors which make bringing about change in and around Leith a challenging task. The area has the highest population density in Edinburgh (and one of the highest in the UK), with an estimated 26,000 people living within 800 metres of Leith Walk. This puts a particular strain on the infrastructure and drives pressures to improve connectivity and access to services against a backdrop of acute pressure on the council’s budget.

For more than 40 years, Port of Leith Housing Association has been investing in the regeneration of Leith and North Edinburgh and we now manage over 2700 affordable homes – social, mid-market and shared ownership – which provide secure, high quality and affordable housing and support for thousands of residents. We are focused on supporting a more inclusive and resilient community and particularly for more vulnerable people, including improving access to training and education, improving prospects for employment and improving the environment, which are all important elements of achieving our ambitions. Only by addressing these challenges will we make Leith and North Edinburgh a better place to live, work, play and visit.

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In the run-up to the Scottish Parliament elections we have produced a vision for the area based upon four broad themes of increasing the supply of affordable housing, recognising the role of housing associations in the integration of health and social care services, addressing the issue of common repairs and ensuring the area is clean and safe. What may seem like four very basic asks will, if tackled properly, go a long way to improving the wellbeing of the community.

We are in the process of meeting with candidates standing for election to the Scottish Parliament with aspirations of representing the area for the next five years. The response so far has been very positive.

Only through combined working between local groups, housing providers and elected representatives can we take the necessary action to help Leith and North Edinburgh reach its fullest potential.

• Keith Anderson is chief executive of Port of Leith Housing Association