Leith Walk shops fear for business over major roadworks clash

Trader Ray Withey is worried that prolonged roadworks will affect business on Leith Walk. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Trader Ray Withey is worried that prolonged roadworks will affect business on Leith Walk. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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STRESSED shopkeepers fear going out of business over the summer if major roadworks clash.

The Evening News reported last week how a firm carrying out Leith Walk works had collapsed, sparking fears any delay could run into the Leith Street closure.

But council chiefs sought to assure traders their aim remains to complete new pavements and cycle lanes on Leith Walk by July with a new firm already hired.

“We’re potentially looking at people going out of business – traders are very worried about it,” said Gordon Henderson, senior development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses.

Work will restart at Leith Walk today with the race on to finish ahead of the ten-month Leith Street closure from September as part of the £1 billion St James revamp.

“In dealing with Leith Walk, the council should look into the works and possibly put on hold the Leith Street closure,” said Mr Henderson.

“Or if Leith Street has to go ahead as planned then they should stop Leith Walk – it’s not realistic to have both at the same time.”

Prime concern is customers being diverted elsewhere, while any tram extension in 2019 could mean disruptions in Leith Walk for up to four years, added Mr Henderson.

Members of Leith Central Community Council called for assurances on safeguards in place to ensure contracted work is completed quickly and efficiently.

“There have been indications for a while that work had slowed down, but this latest development has come as a complete shock,” said vice-chair Harald Tobermann.

One pressing job for the new contractor is to deal with a lamppost that appeared in the middle of a new cycle lane on Leith Walk, as reported in the Evening News last November.

Leith Walk councillor Lewis Ritchie (SNP) added his “frustration” to news that Leith Walk contractor Land Engineering had hit the rocks and called for a “swift” resolution.

“This news comes as a shock and a huge disappointment to me personally,” said Cllr Ritchie. “It will be a real kick in the teeth to residents and traders who have put up with considerable disruption while these works have been going on.”

Council bosses have appointed Bonnyrigg-based Crummock (Scotland) Ltd to pick up where Land Engineering left off with the aim of finishing work by July.

A council spokeswoman said: “We have now appointed a contractor to complete phase four of the programme, with work commencing on Monday.

“This will ensure minimum disruption to the project, and we are confident the remaining work will be carried out as near to the scheduled completion date as possible.”

andy.shipley@jpress.co.uk