By Ian McConnell

FORTH Ports has submitted an amended planning application for a 938-home development in Edinburgh, cutting the number of parking spaces, because it “no longer believes” existing approved proposals are sufficient to achieve its own, and the city’s, “carbon reduction aspirations”.

The amended outline planning application for the £250 million Western Harbour housing development at the Port of Leith in Edinburgh features a 43 per cent reduction in on-site parking, to 326 spaces from 570.

Forth Ports also plans to replace “carbon-intensive structures with centralised, electric vehicle-enabled spaces”.

And it proposes “significantly increasing car club provision”.

It is also, in the amended application, proposing a “Go Green” Hub, including an education centre that will “encourage residents to join the green revolution, persuade car users to adopt other, greener forms of transport [and] facilitate E-cycle hire”.

READ MORE: Mansion House speech: Ian McConnell: UK is ‘leading through action not rhetoric’ – really Rishi Sunak?

Forth Ports said: “As part of its wider net zero agenda for the Port of Leith, Forth Ports has submitted an amended outline planning application to City of Edinburgh Council to actively drive the adoption of green energy and reduce CO2 emissions at the £250m development of the first 938 homes at Western Harbour. Planning permission for the latest phase in this development of one, two and three-bedroom homes was granted in June 2020 but Forth Ports no longer believes that these proposals are sufficient to achieve its, and the city’s, carbon reduction aspirations.”

Charles Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, said: “It’s becoming clearer by the day that not only do we have a responsibility to reduce carbon emissions but that there is a real appetite for this change too. At Forth Ports, we are committed to supporting this, not only through our major industrial projects such as the creation of a £40m renewable energy hub within the Port of Leith, but also through housing development projects such as Western Harbour.

READ MORE: Coronavirus UK: Ian McConnell: The hazards of temptation for Tories to think this is all over

“We want to continue the regeneration of Leith, but we believe that it needs to be done in a way that supports the move to net zero carbon. This is truly a transition, and we are confident that the steps we are proposing for Western Harbour will support the kind of behavioural change needed for Scotland to achieve its net zero aspirations.”

He added: “Forth Ports is proud of our role in helping create a much more vibrant and successful community and we are determined to do that in a way that is sustainable. These new homes for families will create a fantastic place to live in Leith beside one of the finest, and biggest, new parks in Scotland and, of course, our fantastic waterfront.”

The development will deliver a total of 2,000 homes to be completed over the next five years. These homes will sit alongside the recently completely Harbour Gateway, already created by Forth Ports and Rettie & Co.

The development also includes what Forth Ports describes as "one of the largest parks to be created in Edinburgh in 150 years" – declaring this will at 4.4 hectares be bigger than West Princes Street Gardens.

Forth Ports noted that, in the currently consented plans for Western Harbour, "car parking was to have been accommodated within carbon intensive parking decks constructed as part of the homes on the development".

It added: "Most of the parking decks will now be omitted and replaced with 10,950 sq.m. of landscaped areas, directly accessible from the homes on-site and saving an estimated 4,555 tonnes of CO2 [equivalent]."

Forth Ports noted that, "as petrol and diesel car use reduces over time, as forecast", the infrastructure "will already be in place to convert further parking spaces to E-car spaces or, should overall car ownership decline, be repurposed".

Matthew Benson, director of development services at Rettie & Co, said: “It makes no sense to ‘bake in’ acres of underground concrete car parking spaces that are likely to be largely redundant by 2030 and which cannot be easily re-purposed.

“We are all becoming more aware of our carbon footprint and in particular the impact that our travel choices have on that. In such a well-connected city like Edinburgh, the opportunity is growing for making different choices, but this change takes time. Our proposals recognise the need to help people embrace this transition over the coming years."