Another year has passed in which Leith Walk, our much-loved and iconic high street, continues to dominate our meetings. Depending who you’re talking to, Leith Walk, once designated as a pedestrian-friendly boulevard or, more recently, a dual carriageway with pedestrian-deterrent paving (if the current tram designs go ahead), continues to be a political football. Plagued by disruption and road works for over 12 long years, residents are fed up and sharply divided as to whether the trams, should the plans be approved, will actually benefit the area.
Leith Walk disruption
Our Transport sub-committee, already dealing with many large and complex planning applications, have had to pull out all the stops as the comparatively straightforward Phases 4, 5 and 6 of the Leith Walk Programme transmogrified into proposals for the St James Centre, The Picardy Gyratory and the trams.
In response to the prospect of another 5 years of upheaval and uncertainty, LCCC has agreed on a list of measures that we feel need to be implemented if the unique character of the Leith Walk and Easter Road area is to be safeguarded. They range from financial compensation for existing businesses to the improvement of green spaces and better active travel connections to green corridors. To maintain the social mix that makes Leith one of the most popular places to live in Edinburgh, LCCC has also agreed to object in principle to any further planning applications for student and/or hotel accommodation.
The Abbeyhill Gyratory, temporarily created for the benefit of the construction traffic to and from the St James Centre, caused serious traffic congestion and pollution. Looking at the St James Development in the long term, it will potentially have a far-reaching impact on the area in terms of housing, businesses, traffic and pollution. We met with councilors and officers regularly to try and improve the situation.
Planning and development
Over the past year the Planning Committee made submissions on 11 applications, including strongly opposing inappropriate proposals to destroy the art-deco shops in Leith Walk near Stead’s Place. We even managed to stop some over crowded development in confined tenemental spaces by forceful representations. Alongside the community, we are formally representing local people in the Trams consultation, the Powderhall Railway Redevelopment Group, the North East Edinburgh Planning Group and the Powderhall Waste Station Development project.
Earlier in the year, our Parking sub-group started a petition to ask CEC to look at ways of regulating parking in the area to reduce car use and air pollution.
The petition gained 390 signatures and was presented to the Transport and Environment Committee on 17 May. Our delegation was well received and we were promised that our parking issues would be considered as part of their report, Strategic Review of Parking, Edinburgh, to be brought to the Committee in August.
However, we were disappointed that this Report, when it was published, did not give us the priority we had expected and a letter was sent to Councillor Lesley Macinnes expressing this. The letter prompted an offer of a meeting with a Council officer which took place early in October. We were assured that the Leith Central Area would be considered along with several other areas of the city and reports would be issued from February 2019.
In the meantime, we have been promised that parking attendants will patrol the area more regularly and on a more random basis. We have also been told that the Council are to appoint a Social Media Officer who will deal specifically with parking issues raised via the various social media platforms.
Both these measures will hopefully have a beneficial effect while we await the outcome of the reports on parking early in 2019.
Supporting the community
We supported the 2nd Leith Chooses, a £120k participatory budgeting project funded by Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government in which all three Leith community councils collaborated. We’re delighted to say Leith Chooses 2019 will take place on the 23rd Feb. Learn more at leithchooses.net.
Have a great 2019! As always, this is a very brief summary of all the meetings and correspondance our community councillors have been up to. If you’re interested, all our monthly meetings are open to the public and we encourage everyone to come along. Our next meeting info can be found on our website.