Councillors refuse £50 million Leith Walk development

Controversial plans to construct a £50 million development on Leith Walk have been unanimously rejected by councillors.

Revised proposals by Drum Property Group for a £50 million development on Leith Walk have been rejected by councillors
Revised proposals by Drum Property Group for a £50 million development on Leith Walk have been rejected by councillors

Drum Property Group has plans to bulldoze the two-storey red sandstone shop frontages and large former industrial units behind them at Stead’s Place to redevelop the site.

In its place the developer wants to build a multi-storey building consisting of 471 student room accommodation, a 56-bedroom hotel, 53 affordable flats, a café as well as business and retail units.

The plans have been subject to one of the biggest development dramas in the Capital in recent years, involving locals, politicians and celebrity protesters such as Irvine Welsh, The Proclaimers and Jeremy Corbyn.

The current structure on Leith Walk

Campaign group Save Leith Walk hosted a demonstration outside the City Chambers ahead of today’s development management sub-committee.

Protesters have argued that Drum’s plans threaten Leith’s unique heritage and culture.

But in a report to councillors, planning officers recommended the plans for approval.

The report concluded: “Overall, the application accords with the development plan as the minor departures on some matters represent justifiable exceptions to LDP policy.

An artist's impression of Save Leith Walks alternative vision for the block.

“The regeneration benefits for the town centre and wider area outweigh concerns regarding student housing and employment space, impact on amenity and the level of cycle parking provided.”

However councillors have gone against the recommendation and voted unanimously in favour of rejecting the proposals.

A Save Leith Walk spokesman said: “We are delighted by today’s decision. It is a victory for Leith, for Edinburgh and for local democracy.

“It is also a victory for communities across Scotland. It is proof that if you organise and engage with local people, if you stay positive and refuse to give up, then you can have a say in how your area is developed. Rarely has Leith’s motto ‘persevere’ been more appropriate.

“We would like to thank the councillors at today’s meeting for listening to the people who elected them, opposing the demolition and recognising that the proposed development was wholly inappropriate for this site.

“It is testament to the strength of the objections raised today by Leith community councils, the Cockburn Association, residents, local businesses and the Save Leith Walk campaign that councillors have agreed with the community rather than commercial interest.

“We thank the many thousands of people who have supported this campaign, turned up to public meetings, workshops, bought T-shirts, lodged objections, signed petitions and shared ideas. Your voices have been heard.

“This campaign has secured cross-party support and we would like to thank our local MSP, councillors and community councils and who have been steadfast in their objection to the proposed demolition and development at every step of the way.

“We know that this is not the end. Scotland’s flawed planning process gives developers further opportunities to push through their plans. But we hope that the points raised at this meeting mean that today’s decision is upheld in any potential appeals process.

“When public feeling is so strong, when residents, community leaders, business owners, architects, politicians and councillors are united in the belief that your proposals are a bad idea then it is time to go back to the drawing board. It is time for the developer, Edinburgh City council and Edinburgh University to work with the Leith Walk community on a shared vision for this site which puts locals at the heart of the decision-making process.

“We celebrate today’s announcement but we know that there are more hurdles to cross.

“The spirit and solidarity of this community means that we are ready to face those challenges and to contribute to a vision for Our Leith.

“Thank you to everyone who has supported us. A win for communities across Scotland.”

Join our Facebook group Our Edinburgh to share images and news from and around the Capital