Forth Ports partnership for Port of Leith masterplan

Leith Docks pictured from the air Previous plans for Leith's waterfront included residential and leisure developments

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Forth Ports has joined forces with Scottish Enterprise and Edinburgh City Council to develop a new masterplan for its gateway port at Leith.

Under a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the partners will conduct technical and feasibility studies to help form future plans for the port.

First Minister Alex Salmond said the agreement signalled "the dawn of a new era" for Leith.

Leith is Scotland's largest enclosed deep-water port.

It includes 158 hectares of land and up to 100 hectares of water area.

The MoU marks a change in strategy by Forth Ports, which was bought earlier this year by a subsidiary of London-based private equity investment fund Arcus.

Previous plans for Leith's port and waterfront included large-scale regeneration to transform the area for residential and leisure purposes.

'Re-shaping vision'

Scottish Enterprise said the MoU would allow parties "to re-shape the vision for the Port of Leith, taking into account the current economic challenges and opportunities".

The agency will now procure planning, feasibility and design work and, where appropriate, assist with unlocking derelict and redundant land for economic development.

Forth Ports has changed strategy in part because of a sharp decline in property values and demand from 2009.

The company said it had recently experienced "strong demand" from companies interested in developing renewable energy projects and other industrial facilities at Leith.

Start Quote

Our ports in Scotland play a key role in supporting Scotland's economy ”

End Quote Charles Hammond Forth Ports chief executive

Forth is also looking at port infrastructure with a view to enabling large cruise liners to use the port. Currently, the entrance lock is not wide enough for bigger ships.

Scottish Enterprise chief executive Lena Wilson said: "As Scotland's capital port, Leith's strategic position offers significant untapped potential to serve a range of industries.

"However, we recognise that to realise its true potential, strategic planning and investment in the port and surrounding infrastructure is required.

"This partnership will result in an ambitious plan to ensure Leith's assets are exploited to help create new jobs and economic growth for Scotland."

Forth Ports chief executive Charles Hammond said: "Our ports in Scotland play a key role in supporting Scotland's economy and this masterplan project to identify the opportunities for Leith - the largest deep-water port in Scotland with over 60 hectares of portside development land - to become an even more important transport hub is exciting.

"I am confident that not only will we identify ways in which existing users of the Port of Leith will be able to grow their businesses, but also that we can attract early investment from the growing renewables industry as well as other key industries, including tourism."

'New era'

First Minister Alex Salmond commented: "This agreement signals the dawn of a new era for Leith, which will ensure that it plays a central role in supporting economic growth in the Lothians and in the wider Scottish economy.

"It underlines the commitment of the partners to working together to develop Leith into a 21st Century port that plays a strategic role across many of Scotland's key industries."

Meanwhile, Forth Ports is continuing efforts to sell its flagship shopping centre Ocean Terminal, which went on the market in June.

Mr Hammond said: "The sale process is ongoing and is proceeding satisfactorily."

Forth Ports owns docks and development property at Leith, Grangemouth, Dundee and Tilbury near London.

In Fife, it owns sites at Rosyth, Methil, Burntisland and Kirkcaldy.

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