Towering Leith Docks landmark to be demolished

The 'Imperial Grain Silo. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The 'Imperial Grain Silo. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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PLANS to demolish a historic grain silo that has towered over Leith Docks for more than 80 years are set to be given the go-ahead.

The B-listed Imperial Dock Grain Warehouse, the last of its kind in Scotland, was brought into operation in 1934 but has lain abandoned for almost a decade.

Now council officials have recommended the city agrees to a move by Forth Ports to tear down the imposing structure and replace it with new grain warehouses and an oil and gas marine base to service large ships.

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

But Marion Williams, director of conservation group the Cockburn Association, said the grain silo was “an important relic from Scotland’s recent industrial past and one of a limited number of survivors of such buildings around the world”.

In an official objection to the demolition plans, she said Forth Ports’ argument that the building would be unlikely to find a new use was “spurious” – pointing out some cities, such as Baltimore, Minneapolis and Quebec City, had managed to find new ways to “bring life to their abandoned grain elevators”.

Forth Ports argues demolishing the grain silo is essential for delivering economic growth – with the historic building occupying a strategic spot.

The Port of Leith is the largest impounded deep water port in Scotland, allowing it to handle vessels that can’t be dealt with anywhere else.

And Forth Ports insists the Imperial Dock, where the old grain silo stands, is the only dock with deep water capability “well suited to the requirements of the majority of subsea vessels and barges”.

Forth Ports’ application to flatten the structure is the second in recent years. An earlier plan to demolish the silo to make way for a giant power plant provoked opposition from conservation groups and was later shelved.

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

She said: “We need to use the land to accommodate the needs of our customers to grow their businesses by enabling them to have direct access to the adjacent deep water berths.”

The demolition plans will go before councillors next week.

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com