15 February 2020
On 11 March 2019, LCCC called for formal planning guidance from CEC for the sites on both sides of lower Leith Walk (‘Stead’s Place’ and the site opposite, framed by Leith Walk at the old tram depot site to Manderston and Halmyre). On 25 March 2019, Neil Gardiner, CEC’s Planning Convener, responded: ‘There is considerable merit in your suggestion to prepare guidance in relation to the Stead’s Place site and also cover neighbouring development opportunities, for example land on the opposite side of Leith Walk. The preparation of a Place Brief would provide the opportunity for the local community to come together with landowners/ developers to discuss development options, aspirations and concerns across a number of development sites.’
In early 2020, CEC started work on a Place Brief for the area between Leith Walk and Halmyre Street in the form public workshops and an online consultation.
Key elements and characteristics of the emerging Place Brief
In view of the prominent location of both sites – east and west of Leith Walk, between Stead’s Place and Jane Street, and Manderson Street, Halmyre Street Smith Place respectively – Leith Central Community Council welcomes a Place Brief that guides future development in this area in a way that is sensitive to the surrounding urban fabric that is home and workplace of a strong community. Leith Central Community Council is conscious that the latter is vital to sustain the existing high density of the area. Given the size of both sites, insensitive or inappropriate ‘insertions’ would undermine this strength and should therefore be ruled out by the Place Brief.
At the same time, the Place Brief is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve East-West and North-South permeability and to provide a step-change in health provision and much needed social and truly affordable housing.
The following elements should be part of the Place Brief:
- Manderston Street and its railway arches should be part of the Brief, as well as former Tram Depot office building (165 Leith Walk) and the ‘Stead’s Place’ shop frontage with the warehouses behind.
- The effects of any future development on the Conservation Area and all listed buildings surrounding the site should be acknowledged. In particular, the 2-storey ‘Stead’s Place’ shop frontage needs to be a key element of any future development, as acknowledged by the DPEA appeal decision.
- The provision for truly affordable housing for rent and to buy, including social and council housing, should be made a priority to tackle homelessness and overcrowding.
- This part of Leith has an active local economy giving opportunities to access good quality work. A mixture of affordable residential, industrial, commercial and retail options is essential to protect a vibrant and lively Leith Walk as a place where people live and work.
- High quality pedestrian, and where possible, cycle routes through both sites – both north-south and east-west – should be designed in from the outset.
- Recognising the existing diversity of uses, there should be no single dominant use.
- Sensitive and diverse architectural styles should be at the heart of the future design.
- No overly massive design should be allowed; scale and density must be in tune with existing buildings surrounding the sites.
- Considering the size of the site, the future developments should create an attractive series of places rather than one place.
- Design features should complement existing styles while contributing to the existing eclectic character of this part of Leith Walk.
- Outstanding precedents like the award winning Goldsmith Street in Norwich and Leith Fort should inspire the Place Brief.
- The inclusion of significant greenspace should be an essential part of the Place Brief.
- Developer’s contributions should be ring fenced for community agreed projects.
- Cultural and social spaces should be considered a priority for future community development.
- There is a range of spaces and opportunities to meet for the elderly and vulnerable people but many are at risk, like the Bingo Hall.
- Serious consideration needs to be given to the relocation of the outdated NHS facilities at Allander and Inchkeith House to a purpose-built health centre on the West side with ‘walk-in access through one of the retained shop frontages. The existing – refurbished – buildings would lend themselves to retail or community use at ground level with residential accommodation above.