JEREMY Corbyn has given his backing to the campaign against a £50 million development which critics claim will rip the heart out of Leith Walk.
The UK Labour leader signed the “Save Leith Walk” petition during a visit to the area to help launch candidate Gordon Munro’s campaign for the next general election.
Plans by the Drum Property Group would see existing buildings, including popular live music venue Leith Depot, bulldozed to make way for a “mixed use” development.
Mr Corbyn told a cheering crowd that wherever any development took place the community should have its say and private developers should not be allowed to “build over the hopes and aspirations of working-class communities”.
He said: “I’m supporting the protection of the heritage of the area. I’m concerned about the way inner city working-class communities, particularly in former dockland areas, rapidly get converted into something that is unrecognisable.
“Our view as a party is any development must include protection of the local facilities and ensure there are housing opportunities for working-class communities.”
Campaigner Frances Hoole welcomed Mr Corbyn’s backing. She said: “This is not just our problem, it’s everywhere across the UK. He was saying there’s something very similar happening in his constituency.”
Mr Corbyn said Labour wanted to challenge the government and what is was doing, but above all it wanted to give people hope about the kind of country they could live in.
He said many people were living in poverty despite being in work. “We are living in a country where even NHS nurses have to access food banks to make ends meet. We are living in a society where inequality is getting worse and worse, where more and more young people are being forced into work on zero-hours contracts.
“None of this is necessary, none of this is right. All of this can be changed if you have a government which instead was determined to close the gap between the richest and the poorest and to build the houses that are necessary.”
He praised Gordon Munro, who last year came within 1625 votes of winning back Edinburgh North and Leith for Labour and was recently selected to fight the seat again.
“In Gordon, you’ve got someone totally committed to this city, to this community, to the Labour movement and to the socialist values he has held all his life.
“I’ve known Gordon for a lot of years and what I’ve always admired about him is that he sticks to his principles and speaks up for the people at all times.”
Mr Corbyn said last year’s election saw the biggest swing to Labour since 1945, winning an extra six seats in Scotland. He said he wanted to win “many, many more” Scottish seats next time.
“The road to winning a general election goes through Leith, goes through Edinburgh.”