Tropical fish shop is left high and dry in tram tide

A TROPICAL fish shop owner claims his is the latest business forced to close because of trams roadworks on Leith Walk.

Phil Wanless has closed the Aquatic Rooms, becoming the latest victim of a drop-off in trade due to the ongoing disruption.

His departure comes just a month after the family-run World of Gas closed its doors on Leith Walk after 28 years.

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Many other traders on Leith Walk say they are struggling to cope with the roadworks, which have resulted in a massive drop in footfall, as well as a lack of parking.

Mr Wanless, 43, a father-of-two from Portobello, spent the weekend packing up fish, terrapins and equipment at his shop. He said sales had fallen by 50 per cent since the beginning of the tram works, and he could not afford to continue running at a loss.

He said: "It's a heart-rending decision, but I can't continue putting my family's livelihood in jeopardy. All the staff were in tears. It's taken eight years of hard work to get where we are now. I'm a businessman and I understand these decisions have to be made.

"If anything I should have done this three months ago. I only stayed because of my love of the shop and my hope that things would change.

"I think Edinburgh City Council have made some absolutely atrocious decisions. I don't think trams are a priority. Everybody is struggling here. There are a lot of shops that are running at a loss. At the moment Leith Walk is the worst it's ever been."

The Aquatic Rooms employed two full-time and six part-time staff. Mr Wanless has opened a new shop in Tranent, and most of the staff will be moving with him.

He said: "We used to have customers coming from all over Scotland. But if you can't get parked, how are you going to lift a fish tank half way up the Walk?

"I've thoroughly enjoyed being part of this community. But there's a general view not to go anywhere near Leith Walk at the moment.

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"Leith always used to be an area for tropical fish shops. I remember going to them when I was a child. Now Leith Walk is just going to turn into a street of convenience stores, bars and restaurants."

Shop assistant Cliff Norman, who lives in nearby Lorne Street, said: "It's a complete disgrace. There'll never be anything like this in Edinburgh again.

"We had a dedicated crew of staff and I've been working six days a week trying to keep the thing going. There's always been an aquarium in Leith for the past 40 years. This is the last one."

Gordon Burgess, chairman of the Leith Walk & Constitution Street Traders Association, said the Aquatic Rooms was the fourth shop to close since the tram works began.

He said: "It's horrendous. Without a shadow of a doubt, all businesses are suffering.

"We're all open for business, but even if you can get there, you might assume many places were closed. It's like wacky races driving down Leith Walk at the moment, and any parking that becomes available is often taken by works vehicles.

"We've had no respite for a year. The compensation that shops have been given is only a drop in the ocean."

No-one was available from tram firm TIE to comment, but they have previously said that there could be a number of factors involved in a business closing.

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