The £700m Quay to the future

AMARINA, five hotels, hundreds of flats and a new home for The Royal Yacht Britannia all feature in the latest plans for the regeneration of Leith Docks.

Forth Ports has today released the first detailed plans of a 700 million scheme, which will herald the largest expansion of Edinburgh for hundreds of years.

The first work on Edinburgh Harbour is set to get under way late next year, with the expansion of Ocean Terminal and building of a tram plaza.

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But the first foray into the rest of the 26-hectare brownfield site is likely to follow in 2010, with the construction of new public areas, including a new civic square, as well as new hotels.

Forth Ports chiefs today shrugged off concern that the economic slowdown will derail the wider 30-year plan for Leith Docks, adding it was "important to have a vision in difficult times".

Planning permission for the outline masterplan for Edinburgh Harbour was granted in August, but detailed plans for the first two of nine new "urban villages" on the brownfield site will be submitted to the council on Wednesday. Among the new plans are:

• A new cruise liner terminal and visitor centre for The Royal Yacht Britannia, which will be moved to a new berth 200 yards west of its current site.

• A waterside esplanade with shops and restaurants, as well as two new piers capable of handling smaller cruise ships.

• Up to five new hotels, including one 16-storey building, providing an extra 1000 rooms.

• 1870 new homes, which will be a mix of one and two-bedroom flats, as well as town houses. There will be 467 'affordable' homes included in this development.

• Two multi-storey car parks, up to nine storeys high, capable of housing 3867 vehicles.

• New cycleways, parks, gardens and civic squares.

• A marina including a cross-Forth ferry berth.

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• A new office district extending up to 99,000 square metres adjacent to the Scottish Government offices at Victoria Quay.

Forth Ports estimates that Edinburgh Harbour will deliver around 200m annually to the Scottish economy, as well as creating 2500 new construction jobs and 8300 permanent jobs.

Forth Ports' chief executive, Charles Hammond, pictured right, said: "A key thing through these development plans is the opportunity to build on the city's tourism industry.

"It is a huge earner for Edinburgh, and I really think the new cruise liner terminal will open up big opportunities, particularly with the American market.

"The port facilities will not be affected by the Edinburgh Harbour proposals, but we know we have the capability of relocating to our other ports at Grangemouth and Rosyth, but that is very much dependent on the pace of the regeneration process.

"We want to give Ocean Terminal a water frontage and there will be a re-jigging of the space there, but the rest of the retail space will also have a water frontage, which is something we think is important."

Provision for a multi-million-pound cultural centre has also been made in the plans, but this will be dependent on securing major public and private funding.

The multi-storey car parks planned for the new development are designed to hold thousands of vehicles, as part of a bid to encourage people to leave their cars and walk around the whole of the regenerated area.

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The expansion plans for Ocean Terminal will involve turning the building 'inside out', with extensions to the front and the rear that provide public access to the water's edge.

Some land reclamation work will take place along the dock's edge to accommodate the new hotels and esplanade.

Mr Hammond added: "Of course, we cannot ignore the current economic climate, but this development will go through a number of different cycles over the next 30 years.

"It is important to have a vision in difficult times.

"Edinburgh Harbour sits at the heart of the largest expansion of Edinburgh for 300 years.

"It will create a destination that anchors the waterfront development and delivers significant economic benefit to the Edinburgh and Scottish economies.

"As a consequence, it creates a platform for the private and public sectors in Scotland to work together for the long term, and will help to make Edinburgh a leading waterfront city on the world stage."

Mr Hammond identified the Newhaven-to-Airport tram line and cross-Forth ferry links as important to the future of the development.

The Edinburgh Harbour proposals will be funded through a mix of private and public money, with negotiations ongoing to try to bring forward much of the public investment from Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government.

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Ron Hewitt, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the plans, saying they represented an opportunity to "launch our capital city into the premier league of European cities".

He added: "Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce believes passionately in this proposal as a key building block in the development of Edinburgh's waterfront."

Water could be used to power development

THE water surrounding Edinburgh Harbour could be used to power the homes, shops and offices in the new development under plans being considered by Forth Ports.

The plans being submitted to the council include the provision of two district energy centres to provide heat and electricity for the development.

Hidden within the planned multi-storey car parks, the mini-power stations would use combined heat and power technology, and would be natural gas-fired or biomass-fuelled using chips or pellets.

Forth Ports is also looking at heat exchanger systems, which would utilise the 'water of Leith' by heating up sea water in the docks and piping it through people's homes.

Forth Ports' group chief executive, Charles Hammond, explained: "We have formed a working group to look at the energy solutions for the site and, if we can, then we want to provide low-carbon energy solutions for the whole of the development.

"The new Edinburgh Standard is for 20 per cent of your energy from renewables, but we do want to go beyond that and we are looking at ways of harnessing the water around us in the docks.

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"We also have to consider the advantage we have in terms of transporting large volumes of biomass materials needed for a combined heat and power station."

The move by Forth Ports follows plans by developers Mountgrange to provide heat and cooling for 60 per cent of Caltongate through a ground-source heating system.

The 2m system, which will be the largest of its kind in the UK, uses only a small amount of electricity and will lead to 30 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions.