Leith resident given 'cold shoulder' over plans to transform Water of Leith and improve biodiversity at shore

Resident left disappointed after plans to transform Water of Leith ignored

A Leith resident has said she is frustrated and disappointed after her proposal to introduce floating habitats to the Water of Leith was ignored by landowners.

Annette, who did not give her surname, first began talks with river basin owners, Water of Leith 2000 Ltd, more than two years ago, with plans to install floating island ecosystems to provide a safe haven for nesting birds, improve water quality and enhance the aesthetics of the area for the local community.

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But the local resident of 20 years said the owners of Basin 1 at the shore (between Victoria Swing Bridge and Bernard Street) have given her ‘the cold shoulder’ despite promising meetings following their initial December 2020 correspondence. She added she had offered to fundraise for the entire cost of the project with the aim to ‘increase resident’s contact with nature’ but said the owners were reluctant to sign off on planning permission.

Leith resident, Annette, said her proposal would enhance the Water of Leith for the local community and support biodiversity in the area. She said the floating ecosystem islands provide a safe haven for birds, improve water quality and residents in the densely populated area would have increased contact with nature.

Annette said: “There’s so much potential with the basins but they’re privately owned. The blue water space here is very poor. It’s silted, it’s dirty and the flow of the river ends here so there is a lot of rubbish in it. There doesn’t seem to be an interest to develop it and to make it into something nice. The only thing I needed Water of Leith 2000 to do is help me with the planning permission. I can’t submit that on their behalf. I was going to do the fundraising, I was going to do all of it for them - I even had corporate donations lined up from local businesses.”

Annette said she was told by a spokesperson from Water of Leith 2000 that the company’s “primary purpose is to make profits” and introducing floating islands for wildlife on the water could jeopardise future commercial opportunities.

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She said the company, which provides business accommodation on barges docked in Basin 1, also raised health and safety concerns over the project.

But Annette said she believes the basin owners have no interest to engage with her project because it focuses on benefiting the environment instead of business.

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The surface of the proposed floating islands would provide nesting and breeding grounds for ducks and swans that inhabit the water. A 'subsurface forest' located beneath the floating habitat allows millions of microorganisms to thrive, and in turn, help purify the water.

She said: “What are they going to do? Build student flats in it? The whole of Leith is such a densely populated area. I can’t see what other commercial opportunities there are because the basins are full. If they would had given me a substantial, constructive reasons of why not I would have said fair enough but they’re basically not even wanting to engage.”

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Annette said similar projects in Glasgow, Liverpool and London have transformed rivers and canals, improving biodiversity and enhancing the environment.

She said: “Imagine if you put all different kinds of biodiversity platforms along here and you could enjoy looking at nature and wildlife over the water. The blue water spaces are just as important as green ones. And we need to do a little bit more because there’s nothing else around here. It’s so densely populated and with thousands of homes coming up where’s the public space to enjoy whether that’s blue or green? It can be done, we just need the appetite and desire to do it.”

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Water of Leith 2000 Ltd has been approached for comment.