Portobello ‘underwater in the next 50 years’: Edinburgh councillor calls for clarity over claim

Councillor calls for clarification over Seafield development

An Edinburgh councillor has called for clarity from council bosses over claims that Portobello will be ‘underwater in the next 50 years’.

Research has shown that sea level rises as a result of climate change could leave parts of the capital’s coastline submerged in the coming decades. The issue was raised during a discussion about future plans to redevelop the Seafield waterfront at an Edinburgh City Council planning committee. While planning chiefs described the predictions made as a “worst case scenario” they said “careful work” was ongoing to assess the flood defences required to avoid such catastrophe.

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Quizzing officials on the topic at the City Chambers meeting on Wednesday (January 18), Tim Jones, Conservative councillor for Portobello/Craigmillar said: “I recently attended a presentation on the impact of climate change on Edinburgh and in particular I asked a question about the possibility of flooding in Portobello. I was really quite disappointed with the answer I got.”

Could Brighton Place in Portobello be underwater in half a century's time due to climate change?

Cllr Jones said he was alarmed recently upon being asked about “Portobello being flooded in the next 10 years”.

He added: “We seem to be giving out mixed messages here, so could I ask as a matter of priority that you clarify to the residents of Portobello and Craigmillar please that the extensive building that’s going to take place on that coastline is not going to be subject to flooding.

“Some environmentalists, leading environmentalists – one of them a friend of mine who was a professor of moral theology at New College in Edinburgh – is adamant that that coastline will be underwater in the next 50 years. So I’m really asking for reassurance – is that a fact, or is that not a fact?”

Council planning chief David Givan said flooding was looked at “extremely closely” when planning applications are submitted.

Iain McFarlane, who is overseeing the local authority’s ‘City Plan 2030’, which sets out how land across Edinburgh will be developed in the next decade, said: “There are two studies in the public domain which envisage fairly extensive areas of the Edinburgh coast being potentially underwater in the next 50 years. Both have a worst case scenario of that and that’s assuming the worst case environmental scenario with no action taken to compensate for it in terms of flood defences and whatever.”

He stressed that plans coming forward as part of the Seafield redevelopment project “needs to consider that in its assessment of flood risk”.

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Mc McFarlane added: “That doesn’t mean to say that it will happen by any means, but it is a factor that we need to understand and consider what mitigation is necessary to deal with it.

“One of the reasons why we haven’t got to the stage of having a place brief or masterplan for Seafield at this point in time is that there is that question and it needs careful work to assess it.”