A year ago, Drum Property Group and their partners at the University of Edinburgh were confident that their plans to demolish the sandstone building at Stead’s Place, on Leith Walk, and build hundreds of student flats would be approved. “Whatever happens, that building is coming down,” their managing director said at the time.
Over the past 12 months, the people of Leith have run a campaign to stop the demolition and proposed development. They organised public meetings, held community workshops and gathered thousands of signatures. They sold t-shirts and badges at street stalls on Leith Walk and used social media and the press to get their message out to the wider world.
The support for Save Leith Walk has been overwhelming. It comes from across the political divide. MPs, MSPs, community councillors, business owners, charity groups and celebrities have thrown their weight behind the community’s bid to get its voice heard.
Earlier this year, at a marathon 5-hour hearing in City Chambers, councillors voted unanimously to rejects Drum’s plans. This was a major victory for the people, but the campaign is far from over. Scotland’s flawed planning laws means the developer can appeal, lodge new plans and ignore the community’s alternative vision.
Leith’s motto is ‘Persevere’. This community is now an army of activists who are knowledgeable about planning law, articulate and determined to be heard.
The Save Leith Walk campaign gives hope to other communities trying to wrest control from the money men and influence how their area is developed. It’s an example of what a community can achieve when it pulls together, gets organised and refuses to give up.[Picture caption: The community’s vision for the Stead’s Place building]