The Walk struggles to keep up appearances

LOVERS of Leith Walk will need more tolerance towards her dowdy look as a makeover won’t be happening in the short term.  A major stumbling block to her revamp still remains. What some would call her bete noir, the tram, still lurks in the shadows.

Neighbourhood Manager for City Centre and Leith, Mike Penny, admits that the cards for a link to Newhaven are still on the table. “While it’s definite that the tram is going to St. Andrew Square, it is still said that the route could go right to Newhaven,” he said. “Thus anything significant needs that final determination. We have to wait for that. We have to hold back spending the money allocated for Leith Walk until that decision is made. Completion of that further tram extension could take some years yet.”

In the meantime, more alarming news emerges that further and final Scottish Water works must be carried out along the length of the Walk. Planning for this is at a late stage and works are likely to start later this year. These will last around 6 months and it is anticipated that work will be completed towards the end of 2012.

“We will then do a complete resurfacing of all of the road,” says Mike Penny. “That will cut out all that bumping over uneven surfaces which is such an inconvenience to everyone at the present time. We are very committed to a fundamental makeover of the Walk, but these last works have to be done first, then we can get under way. We plan to reinstate the famous landmarks, the Leith clock and the ‘pigeons’ during that period too.”

Several property developers who own large sites on the Walk and once may have had serious building projects in mind, have now changed their business plans. The company that provides student accommodation, Unite owns the big grey shell that is Shrubhill. “It would appear that the company no longer plans to develop the site,” says Mike “We have been informed that they are looking for a buyer. In the meantime we continue to discuss options for improving the appearance of the site. Hoardings will be reinstated soon and advertising boards established to add colour through the council’s Authorised Advertising Project; it seems less likely that the proposal for a vinyl cover of the whole building with a large image (as has been done in other parts of the city) will now go ahead.. The pressure to sell puts some limitations on some of the ideas, but we are continuing discussions.”

The Old Tram Depot next door to Shrubhill is currently being used as a storage facility for building materials too.  Leith Walk is still a work in progress. Those who love her colour and potential will have to wait a little longer for her return to the glory days.