Eco village aims to float buyers’ boat

IT IS an environmentally friendly vision of city living more often associated with the picturesque canals of Holland.

An artists impression of how some of the floating homes planned by SRT EcoBuild would look in Leith. They would use solar panels and heat pumps to provide low-cost energy for residents. Photograph: Scottish Renewable Technologies

Now new proposals to create Scotland’s first floating “eco” village have been unveiled, with estate agents anticipating huge interest.

SRT EcoBuild intends to create the first homes on the waterways of Leith with one and two-bedroom properties in the Commercial Quay area of Edinburgh.

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Energy would be generated by solar panels on the roof of each module, and heat by air-source heat pumps. Mooring connections with the shore will be minimal.

London has already seen a substantial rise in demand for houseboats in sought-after areas such as Chelsea and Maida Vale, while there are 60,000 floating homes in the Netherlands.

City planners in Edinburgh are currently determining whether the floating homes would need planning permission.

If so, the firm said it hopes to have the first unit, which would serve as its office and showroom, berthed by the end of this year.

If the homes are required to go through the planning process, SRT hopes to build them by early next year.

SRT EcoBuild managing director Tom King told Scotland on Sunday that the estimated £95,000 asking price – costs are kept low by not having to purchase land – is expected to lead to significant interest.

First-time buyers and downsizers are likely to be among the key purchasers, property experts said.

Properties are around 10 metres long and 5 metres wide, although King said the firm has looked at building 20 metres by 6 metres properties.

Rather than being built on site, the properties are constructed in factories, and SRT said it is already in negotiations with several fabricators.

King said he expects huge interest. He said: “Our vision is to create low-carbon, energy- efficient homes on either land or on water, and in the waterways of Leith we believe we have found one of the most attractive sites for our project.

“Development in Leith and north Edinburgh has stalled over the past few years and we now intend to bring highly desirable city living to this area once again.”

King said the low purchase price at a time when the property market is recovering is expected to be a source of great interest.

He said: “If you consider that a two-bedroom property in Edinburgh would typically cost £150,000-£200,000, and what you would get for that, then we believe we are offering a very attractive deal to buyers. I certainly intend to live in the first home and I’m sure others will be keen to as well.”

King said the simple construction process would minimise disruption in what is already a bustling commercial district following regeneration since the late 1990s.

SRT EcoBuild’s plans follow proposals in 2011 for a floating leisure village in Glasgow by developers Floating Concepts in the Prince’s Dock area of Govan, and the redevelopment of the Liverpool Marina, which hosts 350 berths and a revitalised local economy.

The Netherlands has seen the most interest in floating homes. They typically sell for around £120,000 for a two-bedroom unit.

Property companies said they expect the low-energy aspect, along with the sought-after area, will make the properties an attractive prospect for buyers.

Kirsten Stuart, from Strutt & Parker, said: “With electricity and gas prices looking as though they will continue to rise, eco houses are set to become of real relevance to buyers and much less of a niche market.

“A decade ago, solar panels and sustainability were rarely mentioned in sales pitches, whereas we now even have a resources and energy department here at Strutt & Parker.

“The floating houses will, I imagine, be good value as no land purchase is necessary. And it is a great way to expand the housing market in the city where spare ground is in short supply.

“They could be very cool. In London, houseboats are extremely popular, not only because they are a cheaper way to live, but as a lifestyle choice for people such as Richard Branson, Imogen Stubbs and Keira Knightly, who have all resided on one at some point.”

Twitter: @RoryReynolds