CITY councillors are hopeful that a plan to bring weekend markets to the Newkirkgate shopping centre will help rid the Leith complex of its reputation for antisocial behaviour.
An application for a market licence for the site is only waiting on final checks and is expected to be approved by the city council within the next month.
Under the proposal, Fife-based firm Continental Markets Ltd would run up to 20 stalls each Saturday and Sunday in an area that has become a no-go zone for many shoppers due to growing fears over teenage gangs and loiterers.
The markets are expected to sell international produce such as German sausage, French and Asian cuisine, and Belgian chocolates, along with jewellery, clothes and designer handbags.
Stalls would be erected near Boots pharmacy, which last month took the extreme measure of erecting fencing along its shopfront to stop teenagers from sitting in the window frame.
The metal fixtures put up as a deterrent on the advice of police have come amid reports of drug users congregating outside the store.
Alarms that produce a high-pitched sound only audible to people under the age of 25 have also been previously installed around the shops.
Leith councillor Adam McVey said he expected traders to start the markets as soon as the licence was granted, potentially meaning they would be in place in time for Christmas.
Cllr McVey said: “It’s hugely positive for the Kirkgate and for Leith because it will reclaim that whole Kirkgate area as a shopping experience for everyone in the community.
“It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy that people stop going there and it stops becoming used by people in the community, and then the problems that exist there spiral out of control.
“Something like this has real potential to put people back there and the more people in the community that are there, the more these problems dissipate.”
Street stalls are likely to be set up around the location’s distinctive metal cone standing on the corner of Leith Walk and Great Junction Street.
The application first lodged in August still needs to go out for public consultation, but Cllr McVey predicted there would be no opposition.
Roland Reid, secretary of Leith Central Community Council, said the public’s number one concern raised at a Vision for Leith Walk consultation meeting in June had been the antisocial behaviour associated with the Newkirkgate shopping centre.
He said: “The markets would be welcomed, I think, by members of the community council and the community as a whole. It might also help to mitigate some of the issues that put people off regarding the Kirkgate.”
Leith councillor Gordon Munro said he would be supporting a licence for the markets at any council vote.
He said: “It’ll actually give a reason to go there rather than a reason to avoid going there. Whatever the Kirkgate can do to add to the appeal it already has, I think should be tried.”
Continental Markets, which was started by Dunfermline owners Ali Yaich and Angela Scott, has been responsible for bringing similar stalls to Kirkcaldy, Stirling and Paisley in recent months.
Mr Yaich said: “We have a group of traders from around the world who sell a variety of products from their home countries to give the local people here a taste of something different, something that may remind them of their holidays.”