The Scottish Government has agreed to allow the City of Edinburgh Council to borrow £84million to fund infrastructure works in the docks area, in a financial first for the UK. The money will be borrowed against future tax revenues, using a mechanism called “Tax Incremental Funding,” or TIF.
The investment will see a new lock gate built, that will allow boats to enter and leave the docks more easily, potentially opening the way for more cruise liners, a cross Forth ferry and ‘marina’ type uses of the Harbour area.
Further improvements will include the construction of new ‘finger piers’ into the docks, to allow more boats to berth there, a cruise liner terminal, and another section of the Edinburgh Waterfront Promenade, that will run around the Harbour, roughly from the new Asda at Western Habour, to the far Northern tip of Ocean Terminal.
This investment will go some way to remedying some of the failings of the existing building on the site, as well as helping to deliver on some of the priorities local people identified for the area. Key to this is improving public access to the waterfront, establishing a more ‘active’ use of the water, and reorientating Ocean Terminal so that it is less inward looking, instead it will open out onto the docks.
Of course, if all this promised activity on the docks actually happens, it will also work wonders to strengthen the business case for completing the tram project to Newhaven too.
Unsurprisingly, given that Forth Ports own the docks, 100% of Ocean Terminal and much of the land that is set to be developed, it’s share price (at the time of writing) was rising.
Whilst this investment is to be welcomed, we can still remember the debate at the planning committee earlier this year, where Forth Ports pleaded poverty in response to calls from planners to put some money into the public infrastructure required to support the construction of what is essentially another new town.
Despite calls from Cllr Munro, Cllr Morris and Cllr Burgess, for a greater contribution from Forth Ports towards infrastructure, the council “agreed to agree later” on the precise amount of contributions the private company should make. We also remember Cllr Childs comments that the TIF process seems capable of funding ‘regeneration bling,’ but not some of the things that are needed to make the development a genuine, long term success. Things like sustainable transport improvements in the wider neighbourhood, affordable housing and renewable energy infrastructure.
So, whilst there may be no TIF money to pay for cycle paths to connect to the docks, it will however pay for a new ‘link road’ between Seafield Road and Ocean Drive.