Save Leith Walk campaigners got an early taste of the Planning system’s complexities and frustrations this afternoon when they tried to present a petition opposing Drum Property’s development of 106–54 Stead’s Place.
The petition has attracted some 12,200 signatures over the last 4 months. But councillors and officials on the Planning Committee refused to accept it. Since the planning application is now live, they could not be seen to be influenced by the document. Nor could they ask questions of the 3-person deputation which appeared before them at the same meeting.
SLW’s Ian Hood described himself and fellow campaigners as ‘really really disappointed’ by the decision, but not downhearted. Petition or no petition, he was confident the deputation had got their points across concerning:
- the distinctive sandstone building’s charm, scale and diversity
- how cultural, social, and economic values should help determine the future of buildings in a community
- the need for a change in Council procedures in order to curtail developers’ ability to make multiple demolition applications and/or allow buildings to decline through lack of maintenance.
You can see what they had to say on the podcast here (Item 3.1).
Campaigners will seek another opportunity to hand over the signatures – this time (via the Lord Provost) to the full Council – in the near future.
Earlier, over 60 SLW activists had gathered outside City Chambers with a variety of banners and memorable captions.
Some even more memorable than others.
Councillors Susan Rae, Gordon Munro, and (briefly) Adam McVey were present, as was Ben Macpherson MSP.
Hood told them and others that this was the worst planning application in Leith for 10 years. The area already had the highest population density in Scotland at 12,900 people per sq.m. Drum’s proposal would, he said, be equivalent to 60,000 people per sq.m. It would be a slum of the future. Leithers wanted and deserved ‘a community designed with our needs in mind’.
Cllr Rae thanked campaigners for their commitment and said it had been a joy to be involved. It was the best organised campaign she could remember, and if successful would become a template for other campaigns across Scotland.
Cllr Munro greeted comrades, friends, brothers, and sisters, and described SLW as the biggest local campaign since the fight to save Leith Hospital. He then apologised in advance for performing the first poem he had written (and chalked on boards at Stead’s Place) since school.
Spurtle has it exclusively here.
From comfy beds to rap’n’rock,
you will find it here on Leith Walk,
they say money talks sometimes it swears,
imposing its will without any cares,
small businesses with big ideas make it unique,
if it’s different not ubiquitous that you seek,
but big money hiding offshore,
will exploit this space to make even more,
it will take away all that’s been built,
it will demolish it all without any guilt,
something unique or something humDrum,
your council will decide what this will become,
from comfy beds to rap’n’rock,
it’s up to you to Save Leith Walk.
Generous applause followed.
Munro’s was a hard act to follow, but Kevin Williamson (of artistic collective Neu! Reekie!) rose reluctantly to the challenge. He spoke about the need to treasure music venues like the Depot, and urged people to resist efforts to ‘corporatise Leith Walk forever’.
'Leith Walk is a street for the people, not the profiteers!'