The rumours have come to an end and we’re pretty sure that most people would agree with the First Minister – it’s welcome news for Leith.
Spanish firm Gamesa has announced it’s intention to invest more than £125million in Leith Docks to create a new manufacturing facility for offshore wind turbines.
The development has the potential to create 800 jobs in the area, with the potential of at least a further 200 local jobs supplying the facilities.
The development will only go ahead if Gamesa and Forth Ports, who own the land, can reach a mutally acceptable agreement. This is pretty likely given the scale of the incentives on offer from the Scottish Government.
Leith Docks was recently designated as a ‘Low Carbon Enterprise Area‘ by the Scottish Government, which means that the firm will be eligble for tax breaks and other support from the government in locating on the docks.
Scottish Enterprise is already working with Forth Ports and the City of Edinburgh Council to put together a new Masterplan for the docks. These three organisations have a five year plan, which we revealed earlier, to improve the infrastructure of the docks with the aim of making it conducive to manufacturing.
Who is going to pay for the infrastructure improvements? Now that a private sector manufacturer has come on board at Leith, we can expect further public subsidy announcements from the Scottish Government towards the end of the year, who have a £70m funding pot allocated for backing the renewable industry through the National Renewable Infrastructure Plan (NRIP) funding pot.
The NRIP estimates that around £35m would be required to bring the port infrastructure up to scratch for manufacturing. According to the NRIP, this could include the construction of a whole new tidal berth on the northern, seaward side of the docks, to accomodate larger ships. There may therefore be the potential of lots of other short term construction jobs too.
In addition to tax breaks, infrastructure subsidies and a ‘strategic dialogue’ on planning, the city of Edinburgh Council also has authorisation to borrow an additional £84m in order to improve the physical infrastructure of the area.
And then there’s the Green Investment Bank, which will be headquartered somewhere in Edinburgh.
Given all this, it is hard to imagine that the development will not go ahead in some form.
All major developments raise questions of course.
What impact will the development have on the business case to bring a tram to Newhaven? Will the factory announcement see Forth Energy come back with another giant power plant proposal? What does this announcement mean for the options presented to Leithers in the Local Development Plan consultation? And what will happen to those protected terns in the middle of the docks?
Questions for another day perhaps. In the meantime, most Leithers will be pleased to hear some good news for the neighbourhood.