Come to Edinburgh – see the castle, the festival and a 100-metre tall chimney
A MULTI-MILLION pound power plant earmarked for Edinburgh's waterfront risks damaging efforts to attract cruise liners to the capital, it has been claimed.
Critics believe a much-vaunted bid to secure visits from the world's biggest luxury vessels could be thrown into chaos if a 360 million power plant in Leith's docklands goes ahead.
Campaign groups and tourism leaders have raised new concerns about the potential impact of the "green-energy" plant which would burn woodchip shipped in from as far away as the US.
There are fears that passengers' first view of Edinburgh is likely to be the 100-metre tall chimney which will dominate the biomass plant – higher than a new big wheel attraction also proposed for the area.
Edinburgh hopes to boost the current number of cruise liner passengers – 55,000 visited the city last summer – by 40 per cent in the next three years.
A senior council source said: "Attracting more cruise liners to the city has been a priority for years. This plant would make a mockery of that aim."
A 50m cruise liner terminal has long been proposed for the eastern outskirts of the existing docks, less than a mile away from where it is planned to site the power plant. It is seen as the best location for a stop-off big enough to accommodate the biggest vessels which currently have to drop anchor in the Firth of Forth or at Rosyth, in Fife.
In the shorter term, dock operator Forth Ports has proposed a more modest port be built near the Ocean Terminal complex, along with a new home for the Royal Yacht Britannia. It is one of several major infrastructure improvements the council has agreed to help finance under plans to borrow 84m to kickstart the regeneration of the docks.
However, senior councillors are growing increasingly concerned about the impact of the plant on wider efforts to revamp the waterfront, which have been stalled in recent years by the downturn and the slump in the property market.
A submission to Forth Energy – the joint venture involving dock owner Forth Ports and Scottish and Southern Energy behind the scheme – from the Greener Leith campaign group, warns that passengers' first view of Edinburgh is likely to be the chimney at the plant.
The group also calls into question the deal which would see the council borrow the 84m against future business rates to get new infrastructure improvements, including waterside walkways, a marina, shops and restaurants.
Its submission states: "These proposals at best betray a lack of joined-up thinking amongst key stakeholders, with the private sector proposing the development of a large 'bad neighbour' plant, while the public sector provides a generous subsidy to promote mixed-use leisure, tourism and retail-led opportunities."
Tom Buchanan, the city's economic development leader, said: "This plan has almost come out of nowhere. It wouldn't appear to fit in with other proposals for Leith, such as the giant wheel and the new liner terminal. This could be the first thing you see when you arrive in Scotland."
Marjorie Thomas, a Liberal Democrat councillor for the docks area, said: "The main issue most people have is over the proposed size and the location, right on the shoreline. I've hardly spoken to a single person who is in favour of it."
Forth Energy is still consulting a host of groups and organisations in advance of formal plans being lodged with the Scottish Government, which will have the final say on its proposals, in the summer.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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