Renewables plan may force city to OK green belt homes

An artist's impression of how the council hoped Leith Waterfront would eventually look
An artist's impression of how the council hoped Leith Waterfront would eventually look
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Turning Leith Docks into a major renewable energy hub instead of building 18,000 homes could force the city council to allow homes to be built on the green belt, the city’s planning leader said today.

Forth Ports is reviewing its 30-year vision for the Leith Docks area after announcing it wants to earmark more of its land for renewables and industrial use.

And a new city council report has revealed further details of the “alternative strategy” for the area, with the whole of the main Port of Leith area – earmarked for housing – being used for industry or energy developments. Under the new strategy, being drawn up since Forth Ports was taken over by infrastructure fund Arcus, five smaller pockets of housing would be built instead of swathes of housing across Leith Harbour and the Port of Leith.

And city planning leader Councillor Jim Lowrie admitted the changes could force the council to release green belt land for housing. He said: “There certainly will be a loss of housing but we won’t know until we have further talks with Arcus what that will be. The bulk of Leith Docks is unknown at the moment until Arcus come forward but certainly there will be a big hit on housing.

“Early in the new year we will have to make a decision on whether we will have to find more housing. That could be anywhere and we are terrified that there will have to be more on the green belt – we are hoping to avoid that.” He added: “If we don’t have all the waterfront housing we will have to get sites elsewhere and the only space now is on the green belt, which is a bit of a hot potato in Edinburgh.”

Many developers have argued that green belt land should be released for family housing, including Sir David Murray’s firm Murray Estates, which owns a major section of the belt in the west of the city.

But Councillor Steve Burgess, co-ordinator of the council’s Green group, said most of the Leith Docks homes weren’t expected to be built for some time: “If Leith Docks does not happen for housing it will be a long while before we should go anywhere near Edinburgh’s green belt for land for housing.”

A Forth Ports spokeswoman said: “Both Forth Ports and the City of Edinburgh Council recognise the significant potential that the Port of Leith has to play in supporting the manufacturing and loadout for the offshore renewables market.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com