Biomass plant may last just 25 years

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DEVELOPERS of a controversial "green energy" plant earmarked for Edinburgh's waterfront have admitted it will take four years to build and may be demolished just 25 years later.

Hundreds of new homes and a major public park which had been previously earmarked for the site of the proposed "biomass" energy complex in Leith will now be delayed until after the 500 million venture is knocked down.

Work has yet to get under way on the first major phase of the Leith Docks regeneration since the opening of the Ocean Terminal shopping and leisure complex ten years ago, after the economic downturn saw the value of land plummet.

Forth Ports, the property giant which owns the majority of land being redeveloped along the city's waterfront, has admitted the flagship overhaul for Leith's docklands has been put back at least ten years, to about 2050.

It has urged the city council to resist calls from politicians of all parties for a public inquiry into the development, claiming it will be worth about 32 million a year to the capital's economy.

However, the company, which has formed a joint venture firm - Forth Energy - to pursue the biomass scheme, is facing mounting protests from campaign groups questioning the plant's green credentials.

Dozens of protesters are expected to take to the streets of Leith tomorrow in the wake of the first public meeting held over the scheme on Tuesday, when local residents and businesses were given only five minutes to question officials.

It has emerged that up to 32 lorry journeys a day are predicted to and from the site carrying fuel and other materials, even though the bulk of energy created in the site will come from woodchip expected to be shipped to Leith from as far afield as the United States and Scandinavia.

Similar schemes are being pursued for sites in Dundee, Rosyth and Grangemouth.

The Leith plant will be dominated by a chimney stack 120 metres tall - roughly twice the height of the Scott Monument, which will be clearly visible from the top of Leith Walk.

It is earmarked for the site of two "urban villages" where 300 homes, a public park and a high school are also envisaged.

Forth Ports insists these are all still planned to go ahead, as part of a wider blueprint for 15,000 new homes, as well as new shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and visitor attractions.Michaela Sullivan, head of planning at Forth Ports, said: "The two urban villages in this area were always intended to be the last to be developed, but obviously the timetable has slipped quite a bit in recent years due to the changes in the property market.

"The new homes, the school and the park are all still planned to go ahead, it's certainly not the case that these plans have been torn up and thrown in the bin.

"It was always intended to be a long-term regeneration, it's just that we expect it to take a bit longer to happen now."

Calum Wilson, managing director of Forth Energy, said: "The plan is for Leith to remain a working port for as long as possible and we think the biomass plant will help sustain that.

"It's an industrial area at the moment, but we think the biomass plant fits in well with the other regeneration plans for the area and we hope many of the new developments will have their heat and electricity provided by our scheme."

A spokesman for the city council said it was still considering a response to Forth Energy's proposals.

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