Scottish Water breaks cover with camouflage plan for treatment site

AT first glance, this rural scene does not look like one of the most important sites in the Lothians.

But, in fact, these rolling fields contain the new 80 million treatment works which is to be built for the Capital's drinking water.

Green roofs and rainwater ponds are among the "camouflage" features in plans submitted today by Scottish Water for the plant at Glencorse, on the edge of the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

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It will rely on gravity rather than pumps to move water down into Edinburgh and initially it will treat 175 million litres a day.

Scottish Water wants Glencorse to replace ageing water treatment facilities at Fairmilehead and Alnwickhill and the plant would be built by 2010 if it wins the backing of Edinburgh and Midlothian councils.

The design has changed significantly since the plans were unveiled last summer, following protests from the surrounding community about visual impact.

Originally the main buildings were going to be as tall as 15 metres, before Scottish Water went back to the drawing board and came up with designs for a "sunken" plant, only visible eight metres above ground. Parts of the plant have been built on top of each other to reduce the ground space used.

Rain water will be collected in "natural ponds" designed to create a rich habitat for wildlife.

The layout has also been adjusted to accommodate the remains of a Roman camp at Glencorse.

Geoff Aitkenhead, Scottish Water's asset management director, said: "We're grateful to neighbours and residents who have worked with the project team over the last six months to help steer us to our proposed solution.

"The project team carried out the largest consultation exercise ever undertaken by Scottish Water to ensure the location was right. We've incorporated green roofs, landscaping and tree planting that are equally important to ensure a successful project.

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"This is not only a modern water treatment works to meet the needs of the nation's capital. It is an environmental project that will sensitively blend with its surroundings in the foothills of the Pentland Hills."

Planning applications have also been submitted for the miles of underground pipes that will be needed to link the new plant up with the city's drinking water distribution networks, which begin at Fairmilehead and Alnwickhill.

Penicuik community councillor Andy Gardiner said: "I am pleasantly surprised by the way Scottish Water has gone about its business so far and I am looking forward to getting into the detail of it."

"Part of the problem at the start was they showed examples of other plants from around the UK which would have been totally inappropriate for Glencorse and I think this was what got people worried.

"I suspect that most of the residents around the site would rather the plant was in Edinburgh but Scottish Water do appear to be trying to accommodate the concerns of the surrounding community."

Officials have long wanted to jettison "outdated" facilities at Fairmilehead and Alnwickhill which are now the cause of problems such as discolouration.

These sites are now likely to attract the attention of housing developers.