Saturday, 7 May 2011

Just say no!

Thanks to Greener Leith I discovered local bourgeois pigs Forth Ports are planning on demolishing the wonderful Grade B listed Imperial Grain Silo on Leith Docks.

I usually don't bother commenting on planning applications but I thought I'd wade in on this one. It'll make no difference. Listed Building Consent application available here. And my suitably left wing ranting comment here:

"I strongly object to the proposal to demolish this Grade B listed building. In their report on the Imperial Grain Silo LDN architects have signally failed to show that there is no viable alternative to demolition.

The building is clearly of architectural and archaeological importance as the lengthy report by LDN demonstrates. Further, the building is close to a number of other listed structures in the docks (especially the dock structures themselves) that will also be harmed in their completeness contrary to policy Env 3 in the ECLP. The vast scale of the building also means it is a local landmark in Leith and across the city marking many views across the Forth.

The proposal is against policies in the Leith Docks Development Framework to protect and enhanced all listed buildings on the docks. It is therefore against Policy Wa1 in the ECLP.

The report offers a summary of alternative viable uses for the building, highlighting examples of student flats in Oslo and the Baltic Flour Mill. These are discounted as the archaeological engineering features of the present building are removed. This demonstrates a clear lack of imagination and the developers have clearly not exhausted ideas for viable development - such as a mixed use development that maintains some of the industrial features in an innovative way. This would maintain the modern architectural styling and some original machinery as noted in the building’s listing. The proposal has therefore not exhausted Policy Env 2 in the ECLP.

The report states that: “the proposal to construct a renewable energy plant on the site of the Warehouse is clearly of National economic and environmental benefit to Scotland and there is therefore a strong argument for the demolition of the Warehouse”. The environmental benefit of biomass to Scotland and the globe has yet to be fully proven and may well be negative. Further, the low power output of the docks (200Mwe) of the plant suggests it is just a means for Forth Ports to reduce their energy bills rather than “National economic benefit”. Siting the biomass plant at this site is also contrary to policy Emp 3 in the ECLP as this is not one of the proposed Business Development Areas.

The proposals for Leith Docks more generally derive from the financial state of Forth Ports. During the economic boom that ended in 2007, Forth Ports enjoyed soaring share prices and profits as the value of their assets increased. Dock lands that could easily get planning permission for new housing were the backbone of Forth Ports’ business model. This is clear from the dramatic shift in their approach to property and asset management through their annual reports from 2001-2005. Now the global recession has resulted in a drastic reduction in the price of their assets Forth Ports have realised that for short term economic gain and shareholder advantage they must return their docks to some semblance of industrial use – such as the biomass plant. This short term economic interest should not give way to long term planned commitments to Edinburgh and Leith as expressed in the LDDF."

N.B. my material considerations - the four local plan policies that are against it. If you want to comment against it, please feel free to be inspired by this rant, but please don't copy directly as this will null my comment as postcard campaigns (as they're known) just get counted as one objection. Is the quality of objections that matters, not the number.

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