Giving new Leith of life to famous thoroughfare

After being scarred by two years of tram works, the city is spending £5.5 million to restore Leith Walk to its former glory, but it will mean another 18 months of disruption. Here, three people who live, work and travel along the Walk tell of their hopes and fears for the future of the street, while city transport leader Lesley Hinds sets out her priorities

The Councillor

Lesley Hinds

Leith Walk is one of the city’s most iconic streets and deserves to be restored to its former glory. The new £5.5 million improvement fund will start to create real benefits for the area. We are firmly focused on the long-term future of Leith Walk and its neighbourhoods in terms of it being a great place to stay, visit and do business.

That is why I am so enthusiastic about this project and why I, along with Leith councillors of all parties, have worked hard to identify extra funding so that we are not just patching up problems like road surfacing. Instead, we want to provide the kind of improvements that will breathe new life into the area and create a fantastic boulevard.

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I understand that people are worried about the potential disruption. We will continue to meet with local people to make sure that the programme schedule fits around their needs. We will also closely monitor the works to minimise disruption and to maximise benefit.

We are regularly speaking to the local community and will base our plans around what they want for the future of Leith Walk. So far, extensive road resurfacing, the reinstallation of art work, landscaping, tree planting and making the Walk more accessible to cyclists have been identified as priorities. The combination of these will make a real difference and no less than Leith deserves.

Councillor Lesley Hinds is city transport leader

The Cyclist

Dave du feu

Edinburgh City Council has a target for 15 per cent of all trips to be by bike in 2020. Our vision for Leith Walk is to exceed that magic 15 per cent in the near future. This means making it a place where everybody feels happy to use a bike for local shopping, work and other everyday trips.

Although the council promises to make Leith Walk more pedestrian/cycle friendly, its new report lacks detail. Is it planning to reinstate the old uphill cycle lane or to install Edinburgh’s first segregated cycle lane (Glasgow has one already). We don’t know.

In Greener Leith’s huge local consultation, a segregated cycle lane was top choice for the Walk – and we suspect it also came high in the council’s own consultation, for which details have not been released.

Edinburgh’s excellent Active Travel Action Plan promises to consider an on-road segregated cycleway in the city – surely this is a big opportunity.

The old unsegregated lane was better than nothing, but if it is kept then big changes are essential – to minimise danger from double-parking, car doors opening, pinch points, badly designed build-outs and the daunting and dangerous uphill section at London Road roundabout.

More generally, we need further traffic and speed reduction, with a maximum 20mph in the Walk and Constitution Street.

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The council’s actions will show us how serious it really is about its cycling and walking targets and about listening to local consultation.

• Dave du Feu is a spokesman for Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign

The resident

Megan Richardson

I’M pleased that after two or more years of disruption on Leith Walk the council has made a commitment to rectifying all the problems that have been created by the abandoned tram works – and put money towards it.

Priorities should be to make the Walk greener and plant more trees; the creation of dedicated cycle lanes; more recycling facilities; keep wheelie bins off the street and in dedicated areas with more regular collections; and reinstate the pigeons on Elm Row, London Road clock tower and the Sherlock Holmes statue at Picardy Place.

I hope that the council engages with the local community and listens to what we want and acts on it.

The council should learn from past experience and plan the works carefully so that the disruption caused to local residents is kept to a minimum and the works are completed quickly and to a high quality. They should also keep local residents informed of expected traffic diversions and construction works in advance.

I can’t say I’m looking forward to more noise and disruption on my doorstep, but at least there is an end in sight and hopefully Leith Walk will become somewhere which is safe, welcoming, vibrant and green and where we can be proud to live again.

• Megan Richardson, 29, of Elm Row

The Trader

Grant Kavanagh

IN the same way that Scotland manages to experience all four seasons in one day, news of reinstatement works to repair the ravages left in Leith by the Edinburgh tram project has stirred a raft of emotions.

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Relief that finally we might see a return to some degree of normality after years of disruption.

Concern that the impact of yet more roadworks might set back the gradual return of lost customers.

Elation that some of the grand visions for Leith Walk might be realised.

Anger that Edinburgh City Council has taken a year to make an announcement about reinstatement works since the decision to truncate the tram line short of Leith.

Astonishment that funding will be approved with no detail on work to be done.

Anger – again – on realising that the council sees reinstatement of less than was here in 2008 as “improvements”.

Amazement at the lack of detail in the funding plan - just the bare minimum may be done.

Anger – again – that the “completion of utility works” is actually the replacement of dangerous sub-standard work by the previous contractor.

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Rage that most funding is coming from the services for communities budget – thereby depriving other projects – rather than the tram project which caused the carnage in the first place.

Just get it done – with absolute minimum impact – and don’t do it on the cheap.

• Grant Kavanagh is director of Arkay Imaging Limited, Leith Walk