Victory for Leith as Forth Ports scraps rebrand

by Annabel Cooper

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It’s celebration time for the Save Leith campaign as Forth Ports announced they would scrap plans to name part of their Leith docks development ‘Edinburgh Harbour’. The area of Leith earmarked for a cruise terminal will instead be called ‘The Harbour, Leith Docks’. The announcement came after a final round of talks between the property developer and Edinburgh Council yesterday. Forth Ports had originally resisted any change to the branding of their multi million pound development but turned full circle last night amid strong opposition from Leith residents.

Chares Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, said:

“We have listened very carefully to the views expressed in the last couple of weeks and working closely with the City Council, we have taken these on board in arriving at the final decision to name this part of the overall development The Harbour, Leith Docks.”

Forth Ports had insisted that including Edinburgh in the name was vital to ensure the commercial success of the re-development which will include an international cruise terminal, restaurants, bars and hotels.  But local residents stood firm in their demands to retain their identity.

Save Leith campaigner and local politician Ian McGill was delighted by the turn around. He said:

“This is great news and exactly the result we wanted! It looks like Leith lives to fight another day!”
Council Leader Jenny Dawe chaired the talks with Forth Ports. She said:
“Retaining ‘Leith’ in the name of the development  is very welcome.  Charles Hammond  and I had a very constructive meeting at which I presented the case for ‘Leith.’  Forth Ports has listened to the arguments, listened to the community and has made the right choice.”

Councillor Rob Munn, Deputy Lord Provost and Leith Councillor, was also present. He said:

“I am proud to have represented the Leith community’s strong feeling and to have helped protect an important part of Leith’s heritage.  Leith has a proud and prominent history as the major port of Edinburgh.  I am delighted that Forth Ports has listened to local residents and has ensured that the good name of Leith will be at the forefront of the economic success and prosperity that the Forth Ports development will deliver.”

Forth Ports’ plans span a 144 hectare site at Leith Docks and include nine ‘urban villages’ providing new homes, outdoor spaces and leisure facilities for residents and visitors.  The new international cruise terminal makes up two of the planned ‘villages’ and forms the focal point of the development.

‘Save Leith’ protestors take their campaign to the Council

The ‘Save Leith’ campaign moved up a gear today as protestors took over 4000 signed petitions to the council. The campaigners and their signatories object to plans by property developer Forth Ports to brand a new multi-million pound Leith development as Edinburgh Harbour.

With the backing of MSP Malcolm Chisholm, the Leithers delivered the signatures to Councillor Gordon Munro in time for a fresh set of talks between senior councillors and Forth Ports on Monday. The property giant had initially ignored pleas to change their plans but will meet council leader Jenny Dawe and Chief Executive Tom Atchison again in the wake of fresh protests.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said earlier in the week:

‘We are meeting with a representative of Forth Ports again on Monday. I think there is a way a compromise can be reached on the Leith name being incorporated. They have made their position clear but perhaps they weren’t aware of the strength of local feeling on the matter.’

That strength of feeling was apparent at City Chambers today and echoed by Councillor Gordon Munro. He said:

‘Leith has a unique identity that all Leithers are proud of and it seems silly to ignore that  in this new development. The level of support for the campaign is fantastic and I will make sure the message is delivered loud and clear to the council leader so that she can pass this on to Forth Ports.’

The campaign has also received a strong support online. Over 700 facebook users have joined the ‘Save Leith Petition 2009’ group and their names were presented to the council alongside the petition. Online campaign co-ordinator Iain McGill said:

‘I am delighted by the level of online support but also by the attention the campaign is now getting. We have cross-party support from councillors and MSPs and now coverage from national press and television. Forth Ports will have to listen.’

But Forth Ports has said there was a misunderstanding regarding the naming of the development and that Leith Docks would remain as the umbrella name for the overall project. Charles Hammond, group chief executive, said:

‘The name Edinburgh Harbour was chosen for this area of Leith Docks, which will include a cruise ship terminal, as it highlights the fact that Leith is the gateway into Scotland’s capital.’

Forth Ports has yet to be granted planning permission for developing the area around Ocean Terminal. The first two of nine “urban villages” will include 1870 new homes.

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