Takeover deal won't halt biomass plant plans says Forth Ports chief

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THE boss of Forth Ports today insisted that a takeover would not affect its development or its plans for a controversial biomass plant in the Capital.

Forth Ports, the developer behind a 30-year vision to transform Leith Docks into a series of new housing, retail and commercial "villages", has confirmed that it has agreed to a 760 million takeover by its biggest shareholder, the Arcus European Infrastructure Fund.

The Edinburgh-based firm's chief executive Charles Hammond today insisted that the change of ownership, if given final approval by shareholders, would not affect projects such as the biomass plant, Leith Docks masterplan or the creation of a "renewables hub".

Arcus has owned nearly a quarter of Forth Ports' shares for three years and the company will continue to be headquartered in Edinburgh after any deal concludes.

Mr Hammond said: "The board are recommending the bid because we believe it is a good deal for our shareholders. Arcus have been a shareholder for three years and have been very supportive of the business strategy we have pursued.

"The company will still be headquartered in Scotland with a head office in Edinburgh. Forth Ports will become a private company but will remain a company in Scotland with a head office in Edinburgh."

He insisted that projects the company is involved in would not be affected by the deal - and launched a strong defence of the plans for a 360m biomass plant. The Evening News revealed earlier this month that almost 2000 objections had been lodged against the plans.

When asked if he felt the biomass plant could benefit the Leith area, Mr Hammond said: "Yes I do. I think it can benefit the whole of Edinburgh in terms of carbon footprint and the potential to deliver renewable power and heat for the new development and the wider Edinburgh area.

"Something of that size will always be controversial and that is why we are consulting carefully, listening to what people have to say and reassuring them about things they are concerned about, such as carbon emissions. We have done a full emissions study and this would not get approval if there was any potential harmful impact on people.

"Our own development will be around the Western Harbour and Leith Docks area and I think they can sit comfortably alongside each other.

"Obviously we will be careful about the architectural treatment of the plant but we believe that development and regeneration can exist alongside the industrial landscape and Leith has had an industrial landscape for centuries."

Outline planning consent has been granted for the first phase of the Leith Harbour development and the external valuation of Forth Ports' land has grown by 7m, to 115.5m, as a result.

Ron Hewitt, chief executive of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "Arcus have been involved directly as a major shareholder so has all the insight about how this company has performed. That can only be good news because they supported these plans going forward and we expect they will continue to, which is good news for Edinburgh."