Letters: Leith Walk building’s fate hangs in balance

Anyone who cares about the unique character of Scotland’s great towns and cities should care about the future of 106-154 Leith Walk. Today, the City of Edinburgh Council will decide the fate of this iconic building.

The City of Edinburgh Council will decide the fate of Leith Walk today.

Since March last year, the ­concerned people of Leith and ­Edinburgh have made clear that they wish the building secured with a long-term future.

More than 12,500 have signed ­petitions and over 4,000 have written personal letters and lodged formal objections to the developer’s plans. One cannot ignore a community that is so resolutely opposed.

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The decision of the council will shape Leith and Edinburgh over the coming years. If the proposed City 2030 Plan is to have any hope of validity with the electorate then it must recognise the wishes of the ­people who live, work and use the businesses in this area.

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What does the future hold for Leith Walk?

To allow for a building within a designated conservation area to be demolished would open the floodgates to insensitive developments across every conservation area in Edinburgh.

There are good reasons for wanting to save this historic building. It provides affordable retail and office premises of the small size typical to the Leith area. Such enterprises and entrepreneurs have been part of the lifeblood of this area for centuries.

Furthermore, it is home to thriving businesses, such as the Leith Depot music venue and bar – a vital launchpad for bands and artists.

The building was ­constructed in 1933 as a parade of shops and railway offices. Its ­distinctive red sandstone marks the entry to the foot of Leith Walk. It is a rare example of Art Deco architecture. Accordingly, Historic Environment Scotland recognises that “the building makes a positive contribution to the conservation area”.

The developer’s proposals for demolition and new development are flawed in terms of existing planning legislation, alongside the loss of 100 jobs if the proposal goes ahead. The proposal to concentrate 471 student bedrooms will create a population density higher than the rest of Leith Walk by a factor of five, making Leith another step closer to becoming a short-term dormitory.

Instead of an inappropriate complex that is too tall and too massive for the conservation area, it is time for a more positive vision. It is time to listen to the people rather than sell our democracy to the highest bidder.

David Walliker, Leith Walk, ­Edinburgh.

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