Doubts cast over Leith biomass plant plans

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CONTROVERSIAL plans for a huge biomass power plant in the heart of Edinburgh's waterfront regeneration area have been thrown into doubt after SNP politicians spoke out against the scheme.

MSPs Shirley-Anne Somerville and Kenny MacAskill have voiced concern over the size, location and environmental impact of the proposed plant, earmarked for a site in Leith Docks just 400 metres from existing homes.

They are demanding the scrapping of the 360 million scheme, which would convert woodchip shipped into Leith from as far afield as Canada and the United States into energy.

The MSPs' concerns have emerged in the wake of protests from senior councillors over the unsuitability of the site for the plant, where a new park was supposed to be created.

Unlike most major developments, the Scottish Government will have the final say on the development under existing legislation covering energy schemes.

Its backers claim the proposals "have been carefully developed to complement long-term regeneration plans at the harbour".

But Mr MacAskill said the city's waterfront was in danger of being "blighted" if the plant, which would be dominated by a 100-metre tall smoke stack, went ahead. He warned the scheme would wreck proposals to create a continuous walkway between Portobello and Cramond.

Mr MacAskill told The Scotsman: "I am very concerned about these proposals. The size and nature of them is not what is needed for this area at all. It is already blighted by the sewage plant at Seafield and would be further blighted if this went ahead.

"I'm very much against it. It would be physically obtrusive and ugly, and would carry significant environmental risks, such as pollution from extra traffic.

"It has come from the left- field. It wasn't on the radar at all until recently. I'm very much looking forward to walking between Portobello and Cramond, but it you were to put this plant on this site it would break all that up."

The plant would process around 1.3 million tonnes per year of biomass fuel, and generate up to 200 megawatts of electricity for the local network.

Ms Somerville has written to every local resident to alert them to the development and conduct a survey on whether they support the plans by Forth Energy, a joint venture between dock owner Forth Ports and Scottish & Southern Energy.

Ms Somerville said: "I am very sceptical about the green arguments for this development. Forth Energy claim this development will help Scotland meets its renewables targets, but what about the impact on the carbon footprint. Biomass energy is simply not sustainable if you are shipping woodchip over here from the United States and Canada."

A spokeswoman for Forth Energy said: "We believe that Leith has a real opportunity to place itself at the forefront of renewable energy development in Scotland, generating power within the city, and that this project can be developed sensitively, within the port's industrial boundary and making full use of port facilities to transport in the fuel."

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