Save Leith Walk campaigners start online petition to reopen boarded up shops

Developers Drum board up empty shops on Leith Walk.' Pic:  Martina Cannon-Ball from Save Leith Walk
Developers Drum board up empty shops on Leith Walk.' Pic: Martina Cannon-Ball from Save Leith Walk
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Campaigners have started an online petition urging a property developer to reopen a row of boarded up shops on Leith Walk.

The Art Deco sandstone building at the foot of Leith Walk is now largely boarded up empty units as tenants’ contracts have not been renewed by Drum Property Group which is preparing the whole site for redevelopment.

But Drum’s plans to build a multi-storey building consisting of 471 student room accommodation, a 56-bedroom hotel, 53 affordable flats, a café as well as business and retail units was unanimously turned down by councillors in January. And with the firm yet to announce its next move, Save Leith Walk is calling on Drum to reopen the empty retail space and extend the contracts of those who face having to leave the historic building in the coming months.

Save Leith Walk, with cross-party political support, sent the developer an open letter requesting the vacant units at Stead’s Place be brought back to life. Now they have created an online petition, currently boasting more than 700 signatures, to put further pressure on Drum, which has repeatedly stated it will not consider any temporary lets.

A Save Leith Walk spokesman said: “Drum Property Group are hell-bent on shutting some much-loved Leith businesses. If we don’t do something then they will force the likes of Leith Walk Cafe and Leith Depot to close their doors in the coming months. We cannot let this happen.

“We are asking people to sign a petition to show the strength of feeling in our community. They are robbing this community of thriving shops and businesses, and putting jobs at risk.

“Stop this act of vandalism now. Keep the shops open and work with us on a plan that gives Leith the things it really needs – more social housing, more independent businesses and more green space.”

Campaigners say Drum has refused to meet with the community to discuss new plans to take the project forward. It is understood the developer is waiting to reveal its next move before discussing alternative designs with an appeal to the Scottish Government still a possibility.

A spokesman for Drum said: “As we have consistently stated throughout our consultation with local politicians, groups and individuals, recovery of vacant possession at our property on Leith Walk is an essential step in the ongoing development process as we continue seek to transform our site in line with the aspirations of Edinburgh council. The entire site will become vacant this year. Given our proposals for redevelopment, our estate management policies and our existing insurance arrangements, it is preferable to have the units vacant, safe and secure.”

The petition is at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/open-the-shops