Victory for Leith community as bingo hall is accepted into conservation area extension

Edinburgh council’s planning committee voted to protect a beloved Leith building after a controversial decision to exclude it from a conservation area was made earlier in the year.

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Nine of eleven committee members voted in favour of the motion to grant the bingo hall on Manderston street recognition within the Leith Conservation Area, which will help give the popular 94-year-old Art Deco building protection from demolition.

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The building’s inclusion into the Leith Conservation Area was previously rejected by the committee on February 23, but members of the Leith community were quick to point out that voting committee members had been misinformed on what previous planning documents and public consultation had concluded and would therefore have been unable to make an informed opinion.

The 94-year-old bingo hall on Manderston Street which is now part of the Leith Conservation Area was described as a "social asset" by Leith residents

Speaking at the city chambers, planning convener James Dalgleish, opened the meeting explaining that voting members can reverse February’s decision. He said: “If the committee agrees the decision was based on erroneous, incorrect or incomplete information.”

The committee then heard an impassioned deputation by representatives of Leith Links, Leith Central and Leith Newhaven and Harbour community councils where Pierre Forissier and Jennifer Marlborough explained that previous agreements and public consultation had been ignored at the meeting four months ago.

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Mr Forissier said that community consultation that had informed a September 2020 place brief – a document which considers future developments of a site - proposed two master plans; one illustrating the bingo hall remain in tact and the other proposing that the building be destroyed, but that only the latter option was effectively articulated in February’s report.

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Leith bingo hall in Manderston Street at risk of demolition after being left off...
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Pierre Forissier, who spoke on behalf of Leith's three community councils, delivered an impassioned deputation at Wednesday's meeting.

The community councillor said: “The city was about to extend the Leith Conservation Area as per it’s own outlines but at the last minute it was decided to remove from the approval papers, what was once Edinburgh’s largest cinema and now as a beloved bingo hall.”

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Mr Forissier went on to cite testimony from the public who described the building as a “social asset” that is of major significance to the elderly and the venerable community and added that the bingo hall “not only contributes to Leith’s collective memory but also helps Edinburgh reconcile with it’s past.”

He added: “The bingo hall is in good condition. Its redevelopment is compatible with a new life for the building. It could be an art gallery or a Leith museum, a bingo hall again or a community space.

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“Please approve the extension to the conservation area, as originally consulted, and include the bingo hall.”

Prior to the vote, several councillors thanked the deputation for their “passion and clarity” in documenting the importance of the bingo hall to the Leith community and for highlighting the errors made at the previous meeting.

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Green councillor Chas Booth, who proposed the motion, said: “I was delighted at the result. I think the community councils were absolutely clear that this building was of enormous value to the community.”

Mr Forissier said that he was delighted that the voices of Leith and the work of the community councils had been acknowledged.

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He said: “We feel very relieved that the planning committee amended their decision from the previous vote and that they accepted that they were not given the full information when they made their decision.

“It was a nice feeling that a wrong has been righted.”