Leith Walk traders to shape £2.4m support ahead of tram extension work

LEITH Walk traders can help shape a £2.4m package of support ahead of the route undergoing 18 months of tram extension disruption.

Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 5:34 pm
The Edinburgh tram line will be extended from York Place to Newhaven
The Edinburgh tram line will be extended from York Place to Newhaven

Exploratory works have already begun at various points along Leith Walk and Elm Row ahead of the full construction of the £207m tram extension to Newhaven starting by the end of the year.

The works are expected to be completed by the end of 2022 and the extension will then open to passengers in the first quarter of 2023 after testing. The work will include Leith Walk being reduced to just one lane of traffic for up to 18 months.

The support package for Leith Walk and Constitution Street traders will include a local discount scheme, a business contingency fund, transport hubs, a community fund, a cargo bike hire scheme and an open for business campaign to help encourage customers to continue shopping.

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The discount scheme could see customers purchasing vouchers online to spend in local stores at a reduced rate. A grant of up £6,000 per business will be available to help eligible small independent retailers with short-term cash flow issues during the work.

More than 200 businesses have already completed a survey to help the authority gauge what traders will need during the overhaul.

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “It’s clearly a really positive move and it builds on conversations we have already had.

“This is a chance for traders to truly shape what support we can offer them during this construction period. It very much reflects the council approach which is to support that area – to retain its vibrancy and to be as helpful as we can to local businesses.

“We have already discussed various things with local businesses and moved it in the right direction.”

During the original phase of the tram construction, traders on Leith Walk faced years of disruption while underground pipes and utilities were diverted to accommodate rails that were never laid. The council cancelled the Leith Walk section of the line in April 2009.

The entire extension route will need to be dug up in order to remove around 1,200 “utility conflicts” that remain from the original work. Leith Walk will be one of several starting points for the construction work.

The council will also use the £2.4m fund, which is included in the agreed business case, to ensure the area is kept clean and tidy, which could include free window cleaning, along with providing on-street customer service staff and logistic officers and logistic hubs to assist firms with deliveries.

A leading business group is encouraging traders to inform the council of any measures that would help to mitigate the disruption.

Garry Clarke, east of Scotland development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “The Federation of Small Businesses welcomes the proactive steps that the City of Edinburgh Council is taking to engage with local businesses in and around Leith Walk.

“Any works of this nature will cause disruption to business and it is imperative that the right support is in place to mitigate the impact, particularly on smaller businesses.”

The council has already announced that free electric cargo bikes will be offered to Leith Walk traders to aid deliveries during the expected congestion.

Businesses wishing to take part in the online survey have until Monday 22 July to visit edinburgh.gov.uk/tramstonewhaven