COMMUNITY campaigners in Leith have launched a bid to rescue a threatened building if it is put up for sale.
The Save Leith Walk campaign is forming a community body to try and get the rights to buy the sandstone building at Stead’s Place owned by Drum Property Group.
The current owner wants to demolish it and turn into student flats. The community body plans to offer affordable, short and long-term rental space within the building for community groups, local businesses, creatives and pop-up facilities, through the purchase and re-use of Leith Walk Business Centre.
They believe the move would make a significant contribution to the local economy, support local entrepreneurs and respect the heritage and diverse cultural mix along Leith Walk.
Drum’s plans, which were refused by The City of Edinburgh Council in January this year, are currently subject to an appeal being considered by The Scottish Government.
In the meantime, Save Leith Walk is calling on local residents in the EH6 5** postcode area to give their support to the attempt to take the building into community ownership.
The Scottish Land Reform Act 2003, empowers communities to register an interest in buying land or buildings to buy when they come up for sale. A local postal vote is required under Land Reform Scotland Act guidelines which requires 10% of a chosen community area to register their support for the plan. The Save Leith Walk campaign is asking anyone living in the postcode area which starts EH6 5*** to sign a petition to show their support. Copies of the petition can be found at Leith Depot bar and music venue, Lovella and any of the regular Save Leith Walk street stalls. The postcode has an estimated population of 5,800 people.
A spokesperson for Save Leith Walk said: “The red sandstone building is hugely valued by this community and we are very excited by the prospect of the people of Leith being in a position to manage the building’s future.
“The developer has robbed Leith of much-needed jobs, shops and businesses. The sight of boarded-up shops along Stead’s Place are symbolic of the abject failure of their plan.
“We want to bring this site back to life in a sustainable way that will support local, independent shops and businesses by offering affordable spaces. This can only be achieved with the support of local people. To register an interest in buying the building with the intent to manage it and provide community benefits, we need signatures from people living in the EH6 5__ postcodes. If you live outside of this postcode you can still help us by signing our petition and send a post card to the Scottish Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning.”
Despite seeing its plans rejected, Drum Property Group has continued to end the leases of businesses occupying the site. Until recently there were 40 successful traders on the site, but now only two remain – Leith Depot and Cassia café.
The shop closures come amid rising concerns about the difficulty of finding affordable premises in Leith.
Kairin van Sweeden, who runs the Punk Anatomist personal training business, said: “As a small Leith business, I find it very difficult to find suitable, affordable premises to grow my business. This difficulty is further exacerbated by large businesses buying property as a ‘parked’ asset, which they don’t even require a rent from. These ‘parked property assets’ are holding smaller entrepreneurs back and diminishing community vibrancy.”