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March 9, 2011

Leithers fight back

The community of Leith in Edinburgh is well used to campaigning for its rights. For years, local groups have battled with the owners and operators of Edinburgh’s sewage works over the ‘Seafield Stink’ that blights so much of the area.  More recently, attention has switched to a proposal to build a massive £360m biomass plant in Leith Docks with a 100m chimney stack.  Outside the Scottish Parliament recently, one particularly feisty and elderly campaigner reflects the depth of local opposition


One particularly feisty and passionate campaigner, Mona Tarbuck,  speaks out against the proposed biomass plant.

What the campaign is about…

Rob Kirkwood, spokesman for Leith Links Residents Association, set out the case against the development :

Forth Ports has money problems. The housing market crashed, land prices plummeted and its plans for a residential waterfront development will no longer deliver the expected cash.

This proposal for a biomass incinerator is simply a hastily drawn up plan to deal with this poverty. Forth Energy (the company formed by Forth Ports and Scottish and Southern Energy) will of course try to convince us that this proposal is not just about quick money. 

It will dress up the incinerator in green clothes, apply eco-friendly, sustainable make-up and try to convince us it is an attractive proposition for the community.

However, the green clothes clearly don’t fit and the badly applied make-up cannot possibly hide the ugliness of the scheme.

First of all, the incinerator will produce a cocktail of toxic emissions that research shows are harmful to human beings. Furthermore, the unique climate of Leith, with its frequent sea fogs, will ensure these particles will not be dispersed by a proposed 100m chimney stack, but will remain at nose level, as are the noxious emissions from the Seafield sewerage works.

Secondly, the plant – as well as being an ugly construction – will also generate continuous light and noise throughout the day and night for residents. At night, the plant will be lit up with floodlights and throughout the day and night, articulated lorries will be transporting combustible substances into the plant and taking out vast quantities of toxic ash (no-one knows where this ash is going). This will go on for 24 hours each day and the local air quality – which is already poor in Leith – will inevitably get poorer. 

This will not, of course, encourage anyone to buy a flat in the proposed residential development, which suggests a lack of joined-up thinking from a company trying to maximise its profits.

Thirdly, will it really generate green energy? The organisation Greener Leith in its recent submission on the proposal points out that currently there is no ongoing external independent audit of the fuel used in the plant so there’s no guarantee that the wood will come from forests that will be replaced. Forests throughout the world will clearly be at risk.

If this incinerator is built then we can all wave goodbye to a residential waterfront development which will enhance the reputation of Edinburgh as one of the most architecturally beautiful and prestigious cities in the world. 

Leith was expected to get a facelift, but this plan represents a botched job.

No Leith Biomass Campaign website