Leith bingo hall in Manderston Street at risk of demolition after being left off conservation area plans

Leith community council members have been left shocked at Edinburgh council’s decision to exclude a beloved Leith building from its proposed conservation plans, exposing it to risk of demolition.

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Plans to extend the Leith Conservation Area to include the bingo hall on Manderston Street, along with the historic railway arches had been proposed in the Council’s original report, but now the 94-year-old art deco structure has been removed from the plans, with the suggestion that / alluding that the site should make way for vehicular access.

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In a September 2020 place brief, a document which considers future developments of a site, two proposals were put forward for the Manderston Street site, with one layout proposing that the bingo hall remain intact and a second drawing illustrating that the building could be removed to make space for a new development.

The 94-year-old bingo hall has been left off conservation plans. Picture: Google

In a letter to the city council’s planning committee, community councils representing Leith Harbour and Newhaven, Leith Links and Leith Central said: “This is not only a plain contradiction with Leith community councils’ joint response to the consultation, it also raises serious questions about the conservation area extension approval process.”

The three Leith community councils say that these two options were not fully explained in the recent planning report and therefore the voting planning committee approved a document that proposed only one of the potential layouts.

The planning report published on February 23 stated that the place brief, “proposes a new vehicular access to the rear of the bingo hall on Manderston Street”.

It added: “It is, therefore, recommended that the rear extension to the bingo hall, which was originally within the proposed extended Conservation Area, is not included. This revised boundary would be more focussed on the arches of the historic railway line.”

But Pierre Forissier, planning convenor for Leith Central Community Council said: “That is just half of the truth.”

He added: “The first indicative plan actually has a bingo hall, so not only is there a half truth, but the consultation is basically ignored.”

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The community councils said that the planning committee justified the removal of the historic building, “by stating that the Leith Walk/Halmyre Street Place Brief proposes a vehicular access in lieu of the bingo hall”.

“What the report fails to do, is remind the planning committee that the place brief actually shows two indicative layouts for the site, with one layout including the bingo hall,” they said.

The city council welcomed public consultation as part of its planning process through drop-in events in January 2020 and via online feedback between October and December last year.

“Depriving Edinburgh of a landmark to make way for a private development is one issue, to mislead the public and the planning committee is a different one,” the community councils said in a joint statement.

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The Leith councils also called for the recent report to be voided and to, “reinstate the bingo hall in the proposed Leith Conservation Area.”

The near century old building, situated at 24 Manderston Street, first opened in September 1928 as the Leith Capitol Theatre and Cinema and still retains original art deco features within its interior. The venue is currently a Club 3000 Bingo.

Susan Rae, Green councillor for Leith Walk, said: “I think we need some clarity from the council on exactly why that happened, and whether the planning committee had all the facts in front of them when they made their decision to exclude it.”

She added: “I’m particularly concerned that the bingo hall should be protected in the event that a developer wanted to knock it down.”

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A review of the planning committee’s decision is now expected by June.

A city council spokesperson said: “We are intending to bring a further report back to the next planning committee to clarify matters regarding the Bingo Hall and the Leith Conservation Area.”

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