Cala submit detailed plans for Brunswick Road brownfield site

Brunswick Road image

Following a series of early consultation meetings, Cala have submitted detailed proposals for the former Royal Mail sorting office site on Brunswick Road.

The firm seeks formal planning permission to build 175 new residential homes. 132 will be for private sale, whilst 43 units will be affordable homes. All the affordable homes are located in the taller, westernmost block closest to Leith Walk. This block is also to accommodate 192sqm of commercial space on the ground floor, although the developers say that these will be converted to residential use if a commercial tenant cannot be found.

Brunswick Road plan

Overall a quarter of the homes will be three bedroom flats, although none of the affordable homes will have three bedrooms, apparently at the request of local housing associations.

Should you wish to submit a comment on the scheme for the consideration of the planning committee, you can find all the documents associated with the planning application on the council planning portal.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Brunswick Road

Improving the Local Development Plan

Leith Harbour Image

Since Greener Leith first got established we’ve seen a lot of plans come and go for the neighbourhood. The graphic above shows a long abandoned plan for Leith Docks.

At the moment the council is currently consulting, for the second time, on the next Local Development Plan. For those that don’t know, the Local Development Plan, when it is finally agreed in 2016, is likely to become the document against which all new planning applications are assessed for years to come.

If a developer tries to get planning permission for something which goes against the grain of the Development Plan then they are more likely to have their proposals turned down.

For this reason, it’s important that local folk have a look at the proposed plan, and submit comments if there’s anything that you think needs to be changed.

Greener Leith has proposed a series of changes to the latest proposed plan and we outline the reasons why below. During the development of the plan, in  January 2012, during the “Main Issues” public consultation, we also put in a lengthier response which you can find here.

The drawn-out nature of the consultation process has allowed us to have a look at what other organisations are also lobbying for, and we noted in March 2013, that Forth Ports were still trying to persuade planners to put in place regulations which would make it easier for the firm to resurrect their deeply unpopular plans for a giant power plant on the docks, even though their original plans were officially scrapped a year earlier, in March 2012.

Our post highlighting this lobbying has recently been circulated around a number of the local community councils and so part of our latest Local Development Plan submission has been informed by the responses we’ve seen from other organisations, such as Forth Ports.

In our response we’ve tried to show that Greener Leith remains supportive of genuinely decentralised, efficient, biomass powered heat-networks in the city.

However, as we’ve maintained throughout our opposition to Forth Ports Leith Docks power plant proposals, there is a world of difference between this vision and Forth Ports historic ambitions to build an inefficient, giant power plant.

Sustainble Energy

Campaigning against poor development

Campaigning against poor development

On sustainable energy, we have therefore proposed that the any new “Major Development” in the city is required to incorporate district heating infrastructure, with a local CHP plant scaled to the needs of the development. We add that this requirement could be waived if all the buildings in a major development are built to Passivhaus standards.

We also call on the council to add a further clause to the Local Development Plan such that any new large biomass power plant proposals must be designed to operate with a minimum 70% efficiency from the outset, as demanded by EU Directives on biomass.

Lastly, we also point out that the poor air quality on Salamander Street, where legal limits on particulate emissions are already regularly breached, may make the Leith Docks an unsuitable site for any form of waste-to-energy incinerator, although there is a site safeguarded there in the proposed Local Development Plan.

Together these three clauses do not rule out the development of a large biomass plant on the docks entirely, but if they were accepted, they would mean that any proposal would at least deliver genuine environmental benefits, without negatively impacting the quality of life of local residents.

These proposals would also “tip the regulatory balance” toward smaller-scale district heating projects. Sustainable heating is important, but we’d far rather see a series of smaller CHP plants, such as those installed at Cables Wynd House, eventually linked up to form a “heat network,” than one giant inefficient plant built on the docks. Aberdeen has shown how this can be done. 


Following the recent census, it emerged that Leith is now one of the most densely populated places in the UK outside London. This means that green space is under pressure in Leith. Back in the days when Forth Ports were going to convert Leith Docks for residential uses, there were proposals to create a number of new parks on the docks. Now that those plans are long gone, so are the new parks proposals, even though Leith’s population is still likely to rise, with considerable new areas of housing planned for Western Harbour and around the margins of the docks.

An earlier Leith Links Seaward Extension Plan

LLSE plan

Given this, we think it’s important that new areas of green space are created. In our submission to the Local Development Plan, we call for the Leith Links Seaward Extension to be fully realised. The current LDP proposals would see it truncated and reduced to a “cycle path safe-guard” in its northward section and this seems a wasted opportunity.

Current Leith Links extension proposals

Reduced Leith Links Extension in LDP

We also argue that a new park should be created close to Ocean Terminal, where more high-density mixed-use development is proposed.

It’s clear that there’s a need for another event space in that area, and a public green space close to the water could help to attract more visitors to the area, prevent that waterfront from being entirely privatised, and act as a buffer zone between more residential/office uses and the proposed industrial zone over the water.

Sustainable Transport

When it comes to transport we propose a number of alterations to the policies on private parking provision in new developments, proposing that new developments, close to good public transport links, such as anything built around Ocean Terminal, should not include extensive private parking facilities as the potential traffic caused could have a negative impact on the existing areas where air pollution is already breaking – or nearly breaking – pollution laws.

And lastly, we also call for the Local Development Plan to safeguard the route of a potential cycle route linking the Water of Leith, Pilrig Park and Leith Academy.

See our detailed responses

If you would like to see the exact wording of our responses, you can see them all here. 

You have until the 3rd of October to put a submission into the Local Development Plan Consultation. You can find all the supporting documentation on-line on the City of Edinburgh Council website. 

Early Cala Homes plans for Brunswick Road site published

Cala Homes - Brunswick Road - eastview

Following the first public consultation meeting last week, we’re pleased to be able to share details of the early plans the firm has for the site in electronic form.

The proposals make a fairly significant departure from the roundly criticised – and ultimately rejected – plan worked up by Barrats.

There are fewer homes in the Cala draft, and there is also more variety of home types – with 1,2 and 3 bedroom homes included in the plans. The bulk of the site is taken up by 140 homes for private sale, with a block at the western end, at the point closest to Leith Walk, comprised of 45 affordable homes, and 2000 square feet of commercial space in a ground floor unit.

Cala Homes - Brunswick Road - plan

It would also seem the new developer has made serious attempts to address some of the criticisms leveled at the previous plans. The buildings all front onto Brunswick Street in this design. This will help to “complete the street,” and reduces the overshadowing effect on neighbouring developments.

Our contact at Cala has however made it clear that these designs are still in flux and may still be altered to take account of feedback from locals before a formal planning application is submitted to the council. They may even be altered before the next public consultation meeting on the proposals, which is scheduled for the 23rd of August in the MacDonald Road library.

At Greener Leith, we’d love to know your thoughts on these plans, before we consider putting in any comment ourselves. Let us know in the comments to this post, or in private here.

Council plans for 20mph speed limits almost everywhere

Leith 20mph Map

This week the council are to be applauded for listening to local residents and publishing detailed proposals that would see the speed limit lowered to 20mph on virtually all the streets of Leith that doesn’t already have a 20mph limit.

Every road in the map above that’s coloured blue could be made safer.

If implemented, the proposals would help to cut road deaths, and cut air pollution, by encouraging more people to walk and cycle.

In fact, it’s probably about the single cheapest public health measure that’s available.

Professor Danny Dorling makes the case exceptionally well in this 2011 video.

We’ve shared it before, a long time ago, but now, given that the council is about to embark on a detailed 20mph consultation in the neighbourhood, it seems like a good time to share it again.

Lest you think, this all seems somewhat academic, and not really relevant to Leith, consider these salient points.

The roads around Leith schools have a poor safety record.

Road accidents are the biggest killer of young people in the UK, and we know that the roads around Leith Primary Schools have some of the worst records on road safety in the whole of Edinburgh and the UK.

The most dangerous roads are the “main shopping streets.”

We already know that it is that is usually the very old who are killed in road accidents in Leith, and that accidents of all kinds tend overwhelmingly to happen on the main roads – not the ones which are already 20mph, as this map shows.

20mph limits work in Edinburgh.

20mph limits do tackle the barriers that put people off walking and cycling. This evaluation of a pilot project in the south of Edinburgh shows that people felt the streets were safer for cycling, and that they were more likely to let their children play in the streets, following the introduction of the 20mph zone.

20mph limits on Leith Walk have virtually no effects on bus services

In days gone by, Lothian Buses were caught out lobbying against 20mph speed limits on bus routes. But after a bit of heroic citizen science which strongly indicated that a 20mph speed limit would make virtually no difference to the time a bus takes to move along Leith Walk, it would appear the firm is now supportive of 20mph limits, provided they’re not enforced using speed bumps.

Something needs to be done about air pollution in Leith.

Air pollution in Edinburgh is linked to 205 deaths each year. People living on key roads in Leith like Great Junction Street, Commercial Street, London Road, Salamander Street, Leith Walk and Easter Road all live with dangerous levels of air pollution. Here’s the stats in this 2013 report.

Community support for 20mph limits is already well established in Leith

Frankly, Leithers have been consulted to death on this already. Whilst, it would be wrong to say there’s a consensus, there’s a pretty clear view that has emerged in favour of 20mph limits on main shopping streets. This local support mirrors strong support city wide for lower limits, and indeed, more and more cities across the UK have implemented similar measures.

Not really so radical?

Given all this, a plan to slow traffic down a little bit, in an area where the majority of households have no access to a car, doesn’t really seem that radical.

That is, unless you’re the Evening News, who seem to think that despite all the evidence to the contrary, Leith Walk is “expected ” to remain at 30mph, and that Leithers will bin these “radical plans.”

Exactly who, other than the Evening News sub editors expects this, remains unclear, from their article.

Now might be a good time to contact your councillor

Whilst formal local consultation processes are still to be announced, if you think 20mph limits on all roads in Leith would be a good idea, it wouldn’t do any harm to make your views known to your local councillor.

We’ll update this blog when we know more about the formal local consultation proposals.

Can these maps help anyone improve the neighbourhood?

pointless ASB map

This is a slide taken from a presentation produced by council officials and circulated around local community councils in April.

On the face of it, it looks like pretty good news. Afterall, the map shows 7% more people are “satisfied” with the way anti-social behaviour is being dealt with, and there are even places where people are “very satisfied” about how officials respond to concerns over anti-social behaviour. Helpfully, the map shows places where people are less satisfied too, indicating those areas which might need a bit more attention.

But wait.

Greener Leith had an enquiry from a local resident recently who asked us to find the source of the data that underpins these maps, because the council presentation didn’t link to it. And now, we’ve found it, it’s not really clear these maps tell us anything useful at all.

People Survey accuracy

First of all, the map is based on survey results from 411 people in the area. This gives the results an accuracy of +/- 5% at Neighbourhood Partnership Level in Leith. And of course, the more you try to break the results down to smaller and smaller areas, the less accurate the results get.

The council report on the original survey results suggests that at ward level the results become +/- 7% in Leith Ward.

But these maps break the down to far smaller areas than wards. Each area of analysis in these maps must represent the views of a tiny handful of people, but the officials who made these maps and whoever put them into a presentation don’t seem to have put any caveat anywhere making this clear.

And what about the blank bits of the map? What can anyone say about them?

So it would seem that any claimed “improvement” in anti-social behaviour is pretty close to the margin of error in the survey. Some of the other indicators in the presentation were within the margin of error.

For example, can this map which claims to represent what Leithers think of how the council deals with dog poo really tell us anything at all? Even that 2% “increase”  is within the margin of error.

Dog Fouling map

The Facebook question and not really many answers session. 

Ironically, in the same week Neighbourhood Partnership staff held an online Q&A on Facebook, where we’d requested hard data on how many fines the wardens had issued on Dog Fouling, Litter and Fly-tipping in the last year.

Officials refused to provide the information then and insisted that the request be treated as a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

This will be the third year that Greener Leith has had to use FOI legislation to get these same statistics out of the council about local council services. How many more years will we need to put in the same request, before this data is published routinely?

Good community engagement needs transparency from the council

Lest you think, this post is just bashing the council, it’s not. These two examples illustrate a broader point.

Last Friday, Leith Neighbourhood Partnership held a community conference in a bid to give local people the chance to influence the priorities of that public agencies will focus on for the next three years. You can read a more detailed account of it from Peter Mathews here.

At that meeting, there was a call for more accountability, and more information, from the neighbourhood partnership, as people struggled to make reasoned judgements over which issues should be priorities for action in the coming years.

If there’s a genuine desire to move from simple consultation to more in depth forms of community engagement that give locals more of a say over how local services work, it’s hard to see how “non-experts” will be able to participate meaningfully in these discussions if officials do not commit to providing timely, sensible, reliable information on service performance.

Opaque “sciencey” looking propaganda maps, don’t really help anyone.

Whilst Neighbourhood partnership staff have made a laudable effort to share census results for the area more widely, there seems to be little appetite for sharing internally held council, police or health data, and explaining what the information might mean for the people who use and depend on these services – even when this could help people to come up with better ideas for improvements.

Reassuringly, we understand that Councillor Deidre Brock, who is the current Chair of the Neighbourhood Partnership has asked officers to review the governance and representation of the body. Here’s hoping it also looks at the capacity building work that would be required to support broader participation in community planning. On this week’s evidence, there’s a bit of work to be done.