Controversial £50 million Leith Walk plans to be discussed this month

Local musician Calum Baird has taken aim at 'fat cat' developers in a new song which he recently launched at Leith Depot, the perfect location he said to highlight the plight of overdevelopment and the loss of the city's music venues.
Local musician Calum Baird has taken aim at 'fat cat' developers in a new song which he recently launched at Leith Depot, the perfect location he said to highlight the plight of overdevelopment and the loss of the city's music venues.
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Controversial plans for a £50 million multi-use development in Leith will be discussed by council officials for the first time later this month.

Drum Property Group plans to demolish the ‘new shops’ currently standing at the foot of Leith Walk in order to build a facility incorporating 471 student flats, a 56-bedroom hotel, 53 affordable homes as well as a restaurant, café and retail units.

Controversial plans for a �50 million multi-use development in Leith will be discussed this month. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Controversial plans for a �50 million multi-use development in Leith will be discussed this month. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Tweaks made to the proposed scheme were submitted to the city council last month, reducing the elevation on Leith Walk from six storeys to five and dropping 52 student rooms in order to ‘keep the site in line with surrounding buildings’.

But campaign group Save Leith Walk, which has been supported by big names such as The Proclaimers, Jeremy Corbyn and Irvine Welsh, still fear the plans threaten Leith’s unique heritage and culture.

Both parties will have chance to express their views to members of the city council’s development management sub-committee, which is meeting on January 30.

Ian Hood, of Save Leith Walk, said: “We are a little bit disappointed that we have only been given five minutes to make a contribution to the meeting. In that time you cannot say a lot.

“In our presentation we will be making a positive vision for the site. We don’t feel Drum’s amended plans show satisfactory changes reflecting what we want as a community.

“We are meeting next week to discuss our plans but we hope to fill out the public gallery and have people outside to showcase our support.”

Drum also states that the sandstone retail units will be more defined with first floor feature windows while the cycling and pedestrian route to Pilrig Park featuring 110 cycle spaces.

Campaigners have been irked by the quantity of affordable homes which will be available on the site, which has been earmarked for development by the city council for more than a decade.

A number of empty units within the current block on Leith Walk have been boarded up with Leith Depot’s lease the last to expire in October.

Drum says despite requests from a number of businesses and charities they will not consider any temporary lets as the firm prepares for whole site redevelopment.

Julian Siann, of Leith Central Community Council, said: “The proposed predominant use for itinerant students and a hotel is in our view a severe loss to the community in helping to alleviate a severe shortage of affordable housing in the area which has the highest residential population in Scotland.”

Ahead of the meeting, Drum has revealed around 3000 letters of support for the proposed development that the firm strongly feels will continue the rich tradition of diversity in Leith.

Graeme Bone, group managing director of Drum said: “The letters of support we are continuing to receive for our development plans show that there is a consistent public and business appetite for urgently needed development and investment in this part of Leith Walk.

“We have worked in partnership with the council’s planning team following the initial submission in August this year, and now have a revised proposals which reflects their input and views - as well as feedback from the local community.

“By reducing the height of the building facing on to Leith Walk and the number of student rooms, we have a design which is more sympathetic to the building heights and front-facing facades of the surrounding tenements in the immediate local area.”

He added: “The conversations we have been having with local people tell us that this area has been neglected for more than a decade and desperately needs new investment to create a welcoming, distinctive and accessible destination linked to the rest of the city.

“Our proposals will bring an added dimension to Leith Walk, opening up what is currently an inhospitable industrial site by creating a vibrant, contemporary and accessible community for residents and visitors alike.”