HERITAGE campaigners have warned that a controversial biomass energy plant in Leith will make more of an impact on Edinburgh's waterfront than the Forth Bridge.
The Cockburn Association said it would become Edinburgh's unwelcome equivalent of the Eiffel Tower in Paris because it would be able to be seen in most views of the city, but would be an eyesore.
The group has warned the Scottish Government the plant will do serious damage to the city's cultural and visual assets, harm the tourism industry and the capital's economy, and stifle the development of Leith Docks.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that a Scottish Government watchdog, Architecture and Design Scotland, believes the 600 million scheme could be "detrimental" to the city's Unesco world heritage status. It also claims the plant - which will have a 100-metre tall chimney stack, twice the height of the Scott Monument - will "substantially alter" the city's skyline. The developers behind the project claim it will become "a positive symbol of a modern, green and vibrant city".
More than 1,800 objections to the plant have been lodged with the government, which will have the final say on the scheme, a joint venture between dock operator Forth Ports and Scottish & Southern Energy.
It is also being opposed by local MSPs, MPs and senior councillors, although the local authority is still to have a say on the project. A formal objection is almost certain to trigger a public inquiry.
An objection from the Cockburn Association lodged with the Scottish Government states: "There is no compelling need to locate the plant in the docks which would justify abandoning the existing carefully thought- through planning policies.
"By comparison, the Forth Bridge, by any standards an iconic structure, has much less visual impact, being largely hidden from most of the city, except the foreshore."
Cockburn's objection states that the Leith plant would, like the Eiffel Tower, impose itself on many views and vistas, but lacked any "cultural references".
Jill Malvenan, of Architecture and Design Scotland, said: "The development of a plant in this area could substantially alter the city's skyline and impact on views from the world heritage site towards the Firth of Forth."
Calum Wilson, managing director of Forth Energy, said: "The detailed design of the plan will be the subject of a full design review with Architecture and Design Scotland and requires the approval of the City of Edinburgh Council. The focus of the redevelopment of Leith docks will be on the completion of Western Harbour and the new harbour area around Ocean Terminal.
"The renewable energy plant will act as a catalyst for other developments in the area, allow for the development of a heat network in north Edinburgh and will be a positive symbol of a modern, green and vibrant city."The plant is one of four being pursued in Scotland which would involve burning woodchip shipped in from as far afield as the United States. Others are planned for dockland areas in Rosyth, Dundee and Grangemouth.