Fresh bid to knock down historic Leith grain tower

Imperial Grain Warehouse at Leith Docks. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Imperial Grain Warehouse at Leith Docks. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A FRESH bid has been launched to demolish a historic grain silo that has been a feature of the Capital’s docklands for more than 80 years.

The B-listed Imperial Grain Silo, which was brought into operation in 1934, stands in the middle of the Port of Leith but has lain unused for almost a decade.

Now Forth Ports has lodged a planning application to tear down the imposing structure and replace it with new grain warehouses and an Oil and Gas Marine Base to service large ships.

The company argues the move would pump an extra £62.6 million into the local economy and create 767 full-time jobs.

But heritage campaigners said the demolition would mean losing a “listed building of remarkable merit” and insisted port bosses had failed to justify the plans.

Marion Williams, director of conservation group The Cockburn Association, said: “It seems that we must lose yet another listed building, a piece of our industrial heritage, for ‘potential economic gain’.

“Note the word potential as it is not the applicant who will develop the site, they merely seek permission to demolish in order to sell the site on to a potential buyer – depriving us of a listed building of remarkable merit.

“This should not be granted but given the current form on the development management sub-committee I see no hope for this building.”

The latest application marks the second attempt by Forth Ports to knock down the building in recent years.

In 2011, plans to demolish the silo to make way for a giant power plant on Leith Docks were blasted by conservation groups, but the blueprints were later shelved.

It is estimated tearing down the grain warehouse could take up to 18 months and cost around £1.5m.

A spokeswoman for the Port of Leith said the building was “no longer relevant for today’s port environment”.

She said: “The Port of Leith provides significant support to a range of sectors, including North Sea oil and gas, agriculture and the increasingly active construction industry both locally and across Edinburgh.

“We need to use the land that the Grain Warehouse currently occupies to accommodate the needs of our customers to grow their businesses by enabling them to have direct access to the adjacent deep water berths.”