Heritage chiefs accused of ‘looking down’ on Leithers after Banana Flat heritage status

Cables Wynd House also known as the Banana Flats.
Cables Wynd House also known as the Banana Flats.
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RESIDENTS have greeted the A-list heritage status given to Leith’s “Banana Flats” with widespread bewilderment.

We reported yesterday how Cables Wynd House, immortalised in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, has been cited by Historic Environment Scotland.

It prompted a bemused response from residents past and present, amid calls for those living in the flats to come first.

One 47-year-old ground-floor resident of Cables Wynd House said: “It’s nice that they’re listed but the buildings themselves are a disgrace – what about the people?”

Willy Barr, manager of the Citadel Youth Centre in Commercial Street, said: “I know lots of families who live in the flats and if the flats are going to stay then let’s make them a nicer place to live.

“The best people to ask what that looks like and the changes that need to be brought about are the people who live there.”

One ex-resident posted online: “Nothing wrong with these flats or the majority of the residents. Certainly don’t deserve this status though.”

Built in the 1960s, Cables Wynd House and neighbouring Linksview House replaced demolished tenements which were home to detective and spycatcher William Merrilees, as well as boxer James “Tancy” Lee.

Labour councillor Gordon Munro said he had been left “astonished” the flats have been granted A-list status above Leith’s St Mary’s Star of the Sea, designed by Palace of Westminster architect Augustus Pugin.

“The middle classes and upper classes have always looked down on Leith,” he said.

“This is another example of them patronising Leith. I’d like to know who made the decision and why.”

But SNP councillor Adam McVey said he was “delighted” with the accolade.

“The great thing about Leith is the diversity of its community and its built environment,” he said. “The onus is now on the council and others to match expectations and ensure residents of Cables Wynd House and Links Views House have a category-A living experience.”

Green councillor Chas Booth said he was worried the listing might prevent new ideas to fix long-standing heating problems, such as installing solar panels on the roof.

He said: “Many residents love the flats and are in favour of listing but we need to make sure this doesn’t prevent the energy efficiency of the flats being improved.”

Describing the flats as “unique and iconic”, Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP Ben Macpherson said: “The focus now must be, as it should always have been, on the health and welfare of the residents. Design is important but people must always come first.”

A spokesperson for Historic Environment Scotland said the listing would only affect “significant changes” to the flats, rather than day-to-day repairs.

A city council spokesperson said the flats have been refitted with new heating systems, lifts, kitchens and bathrooms with new windows planned.