LEITH Walk has been branded the “dirtiest high street in Scotland” after new figures revealed it is being shunned by shoppers.
According to information gathered by the city council, footfall on the thoroughfare plummeted by almost 12 per cent in the first three months of 2012 compared with the same period last year.
The drop follows a near-seven per cent decline between 2010 and 2011, and comes despite the fact tram works in Leith Walk ceased in 2010.
Business owners and community leaders today slammed the figures and said they indicated the street was in a state of neglect.
Keith Hales, vice-chair of Leith Business Association and owner of the Leith Walk Barbers’ Salon, said: “Leith Walk is one of the dirtiest high streets in Scotland and certainly the dirtiest in Edinburgh.
“The council are not enforcing waste collection, for example. Instead of two bin collections, traders are trying to get by with one and their bins are overflowing.
“You walk down Leith Walk and see at least a dozen bins overflowing, with seagulls flying over them. It’s horrible.”
Mr Hale’s criticisms were backed by other traders on Leith Walk.
Grant Kavanagh, director of Arkay Imaging printers, said his takings in the first three months of the year were down 22 per cent on 2011 and added: “There’s definitely been a downward trend in numbers in the area – there’s just not the same buzz about the street.
“At the moment people do what they have to do here and then they just leave. If the place looked smarter then people would be inclined to stay and spend more.
“There’s no magic bullet for this problem but the overall environment does need to be addressed – as quickly as possible but not so quickly that it has a detrimental effect on the quality of the work being done.”
Tracy Griffen, owner of Griffen Fitness and secretary for the Edinburgh Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It definitely does feel like there are less people going up and down Leith Walk. It’s in such a bad state of repair.
“People are just dumping their waste because they know they can get away with it and I haven’t seen environmental wardens for months. How much more can smaller businesses in the area cope with?”
City bosses denied they were neglecting Leith Walk and said new investment for the area was planned.
Economic development leader Tom Buchanan said: “We are investing in Leith Walk and recently announced a £5.5 million improvement fund that will help to restore it to its former glory.
“We are also bidding for funding from other agencies to help give Leith a further boost.
“I would encourage people in the area to support their local business too and for people throughout the city to take advantage of the unique range of shops and cafes on the Walk.”
‘It’s like a drive-thru with blue signs and dog poo’
ONE of the Capital’s most successful bar owners has claimed that Leith Walk’s shabby appearance is causing her business to suffer.
Anna Christopherson, who runs a string of bars on Leith Walk through the Boda group, said: “It’s not the Champs Elysees that it could be – it’s more a drive-thru at the moment with lots of blue signs in the middle and dog poo on the side streets.
“At the moment, people go straight to their destination – they don’t take the time to stroll. The Boda and Victoria bars just do not get passers-by coming into them.
“It would be much easier to attract them if the place looked nicer.”