Leith port regeneration projects ditched as focus switches to renewables
AN £84 million scheme to revive one of Scotland’s biggest regeneration projects has been all but scrapped after the major landowner decided to concentrate on the renewables industry.
Wide-scale infrastructure improvements in and around the Leith Docks and Western Harbour areas in Edinburgh have been shelved indefinitely despite the Scottish Government agreeing to provide funding to help get marina, retail, office and leisure developments started.
Council leaders say efforts to attract wind and wave turbine manufacturers to the area will likely be focused on the existing working docklands, which are closed to the general public.
This leaves the prospect of public areas around Ocean Terminal and the Scottish Government’s headquarters in Leith, and large swathes of Granton and Newhaven lying undeveloped and run-down for years.
The Scotsman has learned that almost every element of the tax-incremental-finance scheme, which the council created to secure funding for infrastructure improvements, has been shelved. Just one new access road is expected to be built in the next few years, to link the existing docklands with Seafield.
About £700 million of improvement – the largest expansion of Edinburgh for hundreds of years – was promised four years ago, but none of the work ever got under way, despite planning permission being secured.
New roads, bridges, lock gates for cruise liners, an esplanade for shops and restaurants alongside Ocean Terminal, and a marina that would become home to the Royal Yacht Britannia are among projects now on hold.
The council is expected to have to draw up new strategies to generate fresh interest in derelict land along the waterfront. Only affordable housing firms are building in Leith, Granton and Newhaven due to the collapse of the property market.
Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, last week admitted that his company’s plans for Leith had “changed significantly”, with industry and port-related activity to take priority for the next 30 years.
Jim Lowrie, the council’s planning convenor, said: “The whole £84m tax-incremental-finance deal is off the table now with Forth Ports’ strategy changing so much because of the downturn.
“None of the 16,000 homes that were being talked about for the docks are happening now and no new developments are happening out-with that area. That means you don’t get the income from business rates that was due to pay for these infrastructure improvements.
“New housing is likely to be focused in future years in areas like Western Harbour, where some has already been built, but the problem is many of those sites are still in administration and the interest is not there from house builders.”
Council leader Jenny Dawe added: “The fact Leith has been designated an official enterprise area may help with the wider regeneration, but we are still waiting to find out exactly what that means for the area.”
Keith Anderson, chief executive of Port of Leith Housing Association, said: “There is definitely a bit of a stalemate at the moment over areas like Leith Docks and the Western Harbour because of the way Forth Ports are heading.
“But it is not a good experience living in these areas at the moment and we want to see an effort made to temporarily improve the look of them while infrastructure issues are looked at.”
Forth Ports declined to comment.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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