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Leith Walk deserves better as contentious regeneration is rejected

Plans to demolish and redevelop a sandstone row of buildings on Edinburgh’s Leith Walk was rejected last night by city councillors.

Last year Drum Property group submitted plans to create an ‘innovative’ postgraduate student accommodation with 500 beds, as well as building a hotel, new retail spaces and some housing.

It provoked a fierce reaction from the local community, with the ‘Save Leith Walk’ campaign gaining support from Irvine Welsh, The Proclaimers and Jeremy Corbyn.

Pete Mason, part-owner of music venue Leith Depot, who are still due to be evicted from their unit on Leith Walk told Planning News’ sister site New Start last year that Drum’s plans were ‘atrocious’.

Drum’s plans were last week recommended for approval, with a representative from Drum saying: ‘Given there are no valid planning reasons to oppose the proposals, we are confident that the elected members will now share the view of their officers and give the green light to this major transformational investment opportunity for Leith Walk and the rest of the city.’

However, Leith councillor Lewis Ritchie labelled the proposals ‘charmless and bland’ and ‘incoherent and ineffective’ and said that Drum should come back with plans that retain the original structure, which dates back to the 1920s.

A spokesperson for the Save Leith Walk campaign said: ‘We are delighted by today’s decision. It is a victory for Leith, for Edinburgh and for local democracy.

‘It is also a victory for communities across Scotland. It is proof that if you organise and engage with local people, if you stay positive and refuse to give up, then you can have a say in how your area is developed. Rarely has Leith’s motto ‘persevere’ been more appropriate.’

‘We celebrate today’s announcement but we know that there are more hurdles to cross.

‘The spirit and solidarity of this community mean that we are ready to face those challenges and to contribute to a vision for Our Leith.’

Drum managing director Graham Bone said they are considering an appeal.

‘We are naturally disappointed, but not surprised, that councillors chose to ignore the recommendation of their officers to approve our transformational planning proposal for Stead’s Place,’ he said.

‘We remain wholly committed to developing the site, and view today’s decision as another step in what could be a long process. This will include the possibility of lodging an appeal with the Scottish government.’

Read NewStart’s report on the Save Leith Walk campaign here.

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