Street closure is driving me to stand in election

Harald Toberman, who has become so exasperated With Edinburgh Council he will now run for office as an independent. Picture; Toby Williams
Harald Toberman, who has become so exasperated With Edinburgh Council he will now run for office as an independent. Picture; Toby Williams
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A COMMUNITY campaigner who says he is fed up with political parties is standing as an independent in next month’s council elections.

Harald Tobermann, who is bidding to become one of the four councillors to be elected in Leith Walk ward, said it was the decision to close Leith Street for ten months as part of the St James Centre redevelopment which spurred him to throw his hat in the ring.

He said prioritising the St James project over delayed improvements to Leith Walk was a “kick in the teeth” for local residents. Mr Tobermann – vice-chair of Leith Central Community Council – said the attitude of some councillors seemed to be that because the St James development was the biggest ever private investment in the city everyone just had to put up with it.

But he said: “Leith Walk is a main artery for residents in Leith Walk. If that is closed for nearly a year buses will take 20-30 minutes longer.

“I’m not anti-development, but what upsets me is we spoke to them a year ago about this and it has just been ignored.

“Leith Walk is now in its tenth year of craters, roadworks, traffic jams and pollution – and there are another three or four years to go. Enough is enough. The council can’t keep riding roughshod over us like this.

“By the time Leith Walk sees anything like normality again, many local kids will have lived with this mess all their lives.

“When there is a big investment some of that should come back to the area affected.”

Mr Tobermann has lived in the area for 25 years and has chaired the parent councils at Leith Walk Primary and Broughton High School.

In his day job, he is finance manager at Out of the Blue, the arts and education charity that runs the popular Drill Hall arts centre just off Leith Walk.

He said: “This area has the highest population density in Scotland, which is a good thing – it’s what makes Leith Walk and its hinterland such a vibrant attractive place to live – if it is well managed.”

He said his priorities, matched to the basic requirements of a densely populated area, were more local GPs and healthcare services; decent streets that were fit for purpose and reliable public transport; less pollution; properly resourced local schools; and well-maintained and thriving local parks, especially around the Water of Leith.

He said he also wanted “more openness and honesty”, policies written in clear, jargon-free language, and “planning that delivers on what is promised”.

Leith Walk suffered massive disruption from tram works before the route was curtailed.

On the proposed extension of the line down Leith Walk, Mr Tobermann said: “If a patient has had quite a few operations, sometimes the doctors know he needs to be given a rest.

“Regardless of the merits of the trams, a pause is appropriate.”

This is the first time Mr Tobermann has stood as a candidate, but he said he had been “very gratified” by the positive response from people in the area.