Thursday, 9 February 2012

Quelle Suprise

Well Forth Energy have announced they've withdrawn their application for a biomass power plant in Leith Docks. Given the level of local opposition, the uncertainty over subsidy to this utterly unsustainable scale of biomass and problems with local plan policies and listed buildings in the way, this comes as no surprise to me.

The announcement also underlies points I've made before on the financial drivers of Forth Energy/Forth Ports approach to development. The massive public subsidy from Scottish Enterprise and the City of Edinburgh Council in the docks, through grants and tax increment financing directly funding improvements to lock gates and other things, along with the indirect subsidy of the massive uplift in value from planning policy changes, means that Arcus private equity firm now have an asset with some value. They can now pile debt on top it and in five years time float the sorry lot back on the stockmarket or sell it onto another private investor.

Either way, without this land returning to public ownership, a fair deal for Leith and Edinburgh cannot happen. What worries me more is that the foreshore in Warriston Bay is one of the few bits of seabed in the UK that is not owned by the Crown Estate - it's owned by Forth Ports/Arcus. Given Forth Ports previous plans to fill in the entire bay and build an enormous luxury gated community (with two 18-hole golf courses) this all scares the bejesus out of me.

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