There once was a time when the plan for the regeneration of Leith Docks was illustrated with this picture. Well, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that this plan will ever come to fruition. At the moment, Scottish Enterprise are busy spending £500,000 of tax payers money on a new masterplan for Leith Docks, which is almost entirely owned by Forth Ports.
Simultaneously, the council is in the process of preparing a new Local Development Plan for the whole city.
This plan is important because it will set out the key land uses, and principles that will guide development over a number of years.
Both these processes have huge long term implications for Leith.
Recently, the consultation period on the plan’s “Main Issues Report,” came to and end. Greener Leith put in a submission. Here are some of the things we call on the council to do:
- Protect the greenbelt whilst there is still plenty of ‘brownfield’ area left within the city.
- Adopt a ‘minimum density’ policy within the city to avoid sprawl and promote sustainable housing.
- Explicitly support national and local Government targets on promoting active travel.
- Adopt a favourable approach to community owned renewable energy schemes.
- Preserve agricultural land close to the city on the basis that we might need it in the future if oil becomes significantly more expensive.
- Promote policies which favour the city centre as the best location for both office and retail developments.
- Prevent developers from providing their quota of affordable housing ‘off-site,’ as we think the current policy works and helps to produce mixed income communities.
- Take a more robust approach to conserving our built and natural heritage.
- Explicitly acknowledge and seek to expand active travel networks set out in the council’s Active Travel plan.
When it comes to Leith more specifically, the report asked people to choose between two options. We chose, like some other community groups, to reject both options as too extreme and dogmatic. Instead we called for a flexible approach to the regeneration of the docks that recognises:
- Significantly increasing the amount of retail space around Ocean Terminal without building large numbers of new homes puts the vitality of Leith’s existing town centres around Great Junctions Street and Leith Walk at risk.
- Not all green industries are the same and not all industries which claim to be “green,” actually are. Whilst we would welcome green jobs on the docks this must not be to the detriment of the existing inhabitants and local economy and therefore we suggest some factors the future plan should consider.
- Zoning large swathes of brownfield land soley for industrial use should be avoided as there is no guarantee that the hoped for manufacturing industries will in fact materialise. Depending on what happens to the economy, and indeed government subsidies for renewable energy, it may transpire that more jobs could be created over the lifetime of the next plan by doing something else.
- There is still less green space per person in Leith than anywhere else in the city. New parks and allotments need to be created in the area.
- There are a number of current active planning applications that will see existing small light industrial premises converted into commercial offices and housing. We believe the future plan should aim to preserve the amount of light industrial capacity of the area in order to promote a diverse and resilient local economy.