Leith Walk project will ‘destroy’ local firms, claim critics

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Campaigners and traders against a proposed multi-million pound development on Leith Walk have claimed the developer has ignored community comments and is “destroying” local businesses.

The Evening News yesterday revealed Drum Property Group has submitted £50 million plans to transform the Stead’s Place site into a multi-use facility. Plans include a 500-bed student accommodation, 56-bedroom hotel, 53 affordable homes, a restaurant, café and retail units.

The Bed Shop, Leith Walk, is relocating ahead of the plans to redevelop the Stead's Place block at Leith Walk.

The Bed Shop, Leith Walk, is relocating ahead of the plans to redevelop the Stead's Place block at Leith Walk.

Drum’s vision sparked protesters to unite to form Save Leith Walk, which has gathered more than 10,000 signatures opposing the development, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, The Proclaimers and Irvine Welsh, and has the cross-party backing from local politicians.

Linda Somerville, of Save Leith Walk, said: “Drum Property Group have singularly failed to address the issues raised through their own consultation. Local residents and businesses have clearly stated that they do not want a section of Leith Walk bulldozered to make way for this development, destroying much loved successful local businesses.

READ MORE: The Bed Shop on Leith Walk to relocate to Bonnington after 40 years

“The scale of the development will have a detrimental impact on the area and reinforces our view that profit has been prioritised over the community.

“We now need our local politicians to take action on these issues and work to protect the unique character that makes Leith so special.”

All the current tenants’ leases come to an end by 
October 2019, with only charity Sikh Sanjog, with its affiliated community enterprise the Punjabi Junction Café, confirming its intentions to return to the site if the planning application is approved by council chiefs.

Drum remains in discussions with the other traders offering below market value rents, but some firms, including popular music venue Leith Depot, have announced they are likely to close as a result of the development.

Paddy Kavanagh, director at Leith Depot, said: “We can’t see any way forward for Leith Depot. There is not a lot of change in these new plans from the initial proposals despite thousands of people opposing them. It’s such a shame so many independent businesses are having to close or relocate for this massive development. We also are desperate for social housing in Leith, but the ratio between them and student beds is simply not right.”

The land was snapped up by Drum last year and has been earmarked for development since 2008 by the city council.

READ MORE: ‘How many hotels do we need?’ Readers react to Leith Walk plans

Garry Clark, development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The Stead’s Place development is the latest in a succession of modern developments along Leith Walk that are altering the fabric of a much-loved thoroughfare.

“The council is right to seek to make it easier and more affordable to live in city centre areas like Leith Walk, but this should not come at the expense of turning the street into an extension of Princes Street.

“Investment in the fabric of the city is welcome, but this should not drive out the small independent businesses that we all love, to be replaced by big corporate chains.”

READ MORE: First look: Radical £50m plans submitted to transform a section of Leith Walk

Edinburgh North and Leith MP Deidre Brock said: “I’ll give Drum Property some credit in that they have been more proactive than other developers in public consultation and in moving on some of the issues, but I’d urge them to come back to Leith Walk and keep talking.

“There’s a living, thriving community on the Walk and I want to see that continue. On top of that there has to be a conversation about utilities and infrastructure – can they cope? People in Leith don’t need any reminders of what a problem our sewer system faces.”