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. 

Greenspace

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. 

Written by Ally Tibbitt

Ally Tibbitt is a member of Greener Leith. He looks after this website.