City pulls plug on Leith Docks projects..for now

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Council chiefs are to press ahead with building a new access road for Leith Docks – but the rest of an £84 million plan to help trigger development of the area remains under review.

The council is expected to formally begin the hunt for a contractor to build a £16 million road to link Constitution Street and Seafield Road early next year, with work expected to get under way in 2013.

Work is to progress despite Forth Ports saying it intends to change its strategy and focus on renewable energy development in the Leith Docks area instead of commercial and residential schemes – because council chiefs believe that the road will be needed whatever development takes place.

But three other projects that were part of an innovative “tax increment financing (TIF)” scheme – where the council would borrow £84 million against future business rates growth to fund projects that would help assist development – are now under review because of the new Forth Ports strategy since it was taken over by infrastructure fund Arcus.

A new public esplanade for shops and restaurants had been proposed outside Ocean Terminal and was to be among the first projects to get under way, but the council has now put that on hold because the shopping centre is up for sale.

Plans to create new “lock gates” that would allow more ferries and cruise liners to dock in Edinburgh are also being reviewed, as are plans for a new pier for the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The money for the projects could still be used to extend the tram line beyond St Andrew Square and towards Leith or Newhaven instead.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “The changes that have taken place at Forth Ports do mean that we have to think again about exactly how developments at the Waterfront will proceed.

“However, our ambitions for the area are the same and it remains a vital part of our plan to further strengthen our economy. The TIF concept is still very much alive and we will continue discussions with partners and developers about how to make it work in Edinburgh’s best interests.”

Ocean Terminal was put up for sale in July for £100m. It is understood Forth Ports has selected a “preferred bidder” and a deal is expected to be concluded by the end of this year, although the company’s name has been kept under wraps.

The esplanade development by the council would include the sub-let of newly-created business space back to the owners of Ocean Terminal so is on hold until the new ownership of the centre is confirmed.

Dave Anderson, director of the council’s city development department, said: “We would expect to see the appointment of a project manager to oversee development and delivery of the road in 2012 and realistically the first ‘shovel in the ground’ would be 2013.”