On the waterfront: How biomass plant will change Leith skyline

Developers of a controversial waste plant on Edinburgh's waterfront which will have a chimney stack twice as tall as the Scott Monument have unveiled the first images showing how it will look.

• An artist's impression of how the biomass plant would look on Leith's docklands, complete with a chimney stack double the height of Edinburgh's Scott Monument

The proposed biomass power station would dominate Leith's docklands and be clearly visible from viewpoints across the city, according to new plans from the consortium behind the venture.

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Its backers admit the complex would have a "significant presence" on the waterfront and have also conceded "the majority" of its fuel will have to come from abroad, including locations as far afield as Scandinavia and the United States".

The scheme has triggered a high-profile protest campaign amid fears it will become a "blight" against the future regeneration of the docklands, harm the local environment, and generate few permanent jobs.

It is also being opposed by MPs and MSPs of all parties, and by senior figures on the council, which will controversially not have the final say on whether the project gets the go-ahead.

Despite the opposition, Forth Energy claims 72 per cent of people in the area are backing its plans.

The plant would generate up to 200 megawatts of electricity for the local network and 60 megawatts of heat to local users from the use of around 1.3 million tonnes per year of biomass fuel. Forth Energy claims the plant would be specially designed so it "symbolises technological progress and a greener Scotland".

Callum Wilson, managing director of Forth Energy, a joint venture by Forth Ports and Scottish & Southern Energy, said he hoped to secure approval from the Scottish Government for the project within the next year, with work under way in the second half of 2012.

But he admitted he could not name a single organisation that was offering its support.

He added: "We have sought to address all the concerns raised over the last few months."

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A three-day exhibition, being launched today at the St James Centre in the city centre, will explain how 45 jobs are expected to be created when the plant is up and running, as early as 2016.

The exhibition material states: "Sustainable biomass generation offers an opportunity to move away from electricity and heat generated from fossil fuels to a lower-carbon source.Due to the limited availability of biomass fuel in Scotland, and the UK, on the scale required, we expect to use predominantly imported, sustainably harvested wood."

However, a spokesman for the Greener Leith campaign group described the latest plans as "a particularly sophisticated form of corporate spin".

And Rob Kirkwood, an activist with the No To Leith Biomass Plant campaign, added: "The only organisation that will benefit from (this scheme] will be Forth Ports, because of the subsidies it will get."