Letters of support reveal ‘more balanced picture’ of local feeling towards £50m Leith Walk development

Drum Property Group has revealed high levels of public support for its planning application which is set to transform Stead’s Place, near the foot of Leith Walk.

More than 2,000 letters of support for Drum’s development proposals have been lodged with the City of Edinburgh Council in advance of the committee hearing later on this year.

Drum’s £50 million proposal for the 2.9-acre Stead’s Place site is for a mixed-used scheme combining high quality, affordable housing for local people and post-graduate student accommodation, as well as a hotel, restaurant, café and retail units.

The proposals have been comprehensively revised following an extensive consultation programme with the Leith Walk and wider community prior to the submission of the planning application in August. The developer said it has continued to work closely with the local community throughout the application process, including regular update meetings with tenants, local groups and stakeholders.

Of the total amount of letters of support received, 1,141 are for the full development proposal detailed in the planning application, while 962 endorse Drum’s intention to demolish and redevelop existing buildings – including the row of red sandstone retail units facing directly onto Leith Walk.

Graeme Bone, group managing director of Drum, welcomed the strong levels of public support for a planning application which will have a positive impact on an area earmarked for development by the City of Edinburgh Council for more than a decade.

He said: “This shows that there is a significant appetite amongst local people and businesses welcoming change for this important part of Leith Walk. We have recently witnessed a very aggressive and high profile campaign of opposition to our plans, largely focused on the retention of the existing units along Leith Walk.

“The conversations we have been having with local people tell us something different – that this area has been neglected and desperately needs new investment to create a welcoming, distinctive and accessible destination linked to the rest of the city.

“This is reflected by the high levels of public and local business support for our proposals which present a much more balanced picture of local feeling towards our plans. It is clear that existing buildings at Stead’s Place are no longer an economically viable investment, which is why we are proposing to invest £50 million in a new mixed-use development when all of the existing tenants move out and the site is completely vacant in 2019.

“Our proposals will bring an added dimension to Leith Walk, opening up what is currently an inhospitable industrial site by creating a vibrant, contemporary and accessible community for residents and visitors alike.”

Drum’s vision is for a large mixed-use scheme which will integrate this important stretch of Leith Walk with almost three acres of potential development space linking to Pilrig Park and beyond. At its heart will be a contemporary 56-room hotel, restaurant and cafe to be operated by the University of Edinburgh and open to all, which will act as a vibrant focal point for both the local community and students.

Close by will be a well-designed homes quarter bringing together some 53 affordable one, two and three-bedroom housing units developed for Places for People. This provides a comfortable and accessible living environment, away from busy Leith Walk and linked through accessible and landscaped walkways and cycle routes to Pilrig Park and the rest of the city.

Maintaining the distinctive and independent feel of the local area lies at the heart of Drum’s proposals, and the developer has had positive discussions with the current traders to encourage them to return to the new development on completion – offering favourable rents, in line with current levels, and significantly lower than market value.

It was recently announced that existing tenants - charity Sikh Sanjog and its affiliated community enterprise the Punjabi Junction Café - have confirmed they will return to the new development on completion.

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