Pivotal moment for proposed Leith housing development

An aerial view of the proposed development
An aerial view of the proposed development

Proposals for one of Edinburgh’s largest viable brownfield developments will be put forward for determination at a planning committee this week.

Updated plans for Waterfront Plaza have received support from across the Leith business community, as well as with leading political figures and affordable housing specialists.

Located on infamous disused land opposite Ocean Terminal, CALA Homes (East) amended its original plans to include carefully considered commercial opportunities, similar to the successful “Arches” development at Market Street, Waverley.

The most evident change however is the reduction to 388 homes (down from 425), including 97 affordable homes. This has enabled the developer to further reduce the height of the apartment block directly adjacent to properties on Commercial Street in response to local concerns.

Despite the extensive support for the proposals, planning officials are recommending refusal on the basis that the scheme is contrary to the Local Development Plan, which advocates a commercial led development and not housing - a position that the developer argues has existed for more than 15 years despite no market reaction or viable plans put forward.

Craig Lynes, land director at CALA Homes (East), said: “We are hopeful that the committee will recognise the level of support to deliver much needed housing on the site to regenerate this neglected area of Leith, and overturn the Officials’ recommendation.

“This is a major development that will have a significant positive impact – and if approved will become a real asset to the waterfront.

“Not only will Waterfront Plaza provide a welcome boost to housing supply across a wide segment of the local market, but by incorporating traditional colony-style homes, townhouses and flats with large public spaces, it will create a welcoming and entirely appropriate neighbourhood.”

How the homes will look from Ocean Terminal
How the homes will look from Ocean Terminal

Praise for the plans has been widespread, including from business leaders at Leith Chamber of Commerce and Ocean Terminal, affordable housing specialists at Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA) – as well as a raft of leading community figures, including Councillor Gordon Munro and the Leith Trust.

Wendy Farmer, development manager at PoLHA, also backs the plans that include a considerable number of on-site affordable homes.

She said: “We can safely say there is high demand for housing across Edinburgh, especially in the Leith area, for both social and mid market rent housing.

“Last year’s revelation from Rettie’s about 3,400 people applying for just 96 mid market rent homes (at Western Harbour) didn’t come as a surprise. It’s in line with what we’re seeing and hearing on a regular basis owing to the shortfall in affordable homes.

“We’re currently liaising with CALA on the detailed layout designs and we anticipate that the Waterfront Plaza development properties will be snapped up quickly.”

The development will also include around 1500 sq.m. of small ‘workspace’ units, similar to The Arches development on Market Street, offering a wide range of potential uses including shops, cafes, galleries, creative space and offices ideally suited to start-ups.

The new plans present a varied breakdown of 30 townhouses, 27 colonies, 234 flats, as well as 97 affordable homes, made up of three townhouses and 94 flats, plus commercial space that offers a maximum potential of 29 units.

It is anticipated that an eclectic mix of ‘workspace’ units complimented with the proposed public realm, to include an urban square and public green space and café building fronting Victoria Dock at Waterfront Plaza will draw more visitors to the area and keep them there for longer than if the development was purely residential or large scale commercial.

The amended plans are due to be presented to the City of Edinburgh Council development sub-committee on November 8.

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