Leith is on the move
On 7 June 2023, the first paying customers travelled up and down Leith Walk on the first tram for 70 years. I do understand that the construction of the project has caused difficulties for local citizens and businesses but the tram will now bring huge benefits to Leith. It is estimated that 7m passengers will travel on Leith trams every year. Many of these will be tourists discovering the area for the first time and bringing their spending to the area whilst increasing job opportunities for Leithers.
Improved connections to the city are also creating more investment in Leith. After something of a lull, lots of new house building has taken place at Ocean Terminal and the total of new houses and flats recently built or planned for the Leith Waterfront is over 6,000 and counting. Edinburgh's population continues to grow and more house building is essential not only for incoming workers who are contributing to Edinburgh's economic growth but also for locals who are finding it increasingly difficult to find suitable accommodation. As Council leader I have insisted that the new builds include a high proportion of social and affordable rents.
It is important to bring jobs to Leith to add to those already provided by companies such as George Brown & Sons. Leith used to be a much bigger engineering centre producing not only oceangoing ships but many other products such as railway engines. Now similar jobs are coming back and I am delighted that they will contribute to one of my Council's top priorities, which is tackling the climate crisis.
BP and the German electricity and engineering company enGW are moving forward with an exciting plan for a large area of Leith Dock. This is a direct result of Forth Ports major investment to create, not only a marine berth able to deal with the world's largest offshore wind farm installation vessels, but also creating within the dock area a huge site for related industrial development.
The BP/enGW project would manufacture and assemble major components for the windmills including the blades. The project is initially to build the wind turbines for the Morven windfarm 60km off the east coast. Eventually the promoters expect the project to create 1,000 direct jobs with a further 1,000 in component supply, sub-contracting and support services. However that is, we hope, only the first of many contracts that will help the company grow further, equally we want other green industries to choose Leith as an attractive site for their projects.
Crucially, development of the Morven farm will create electricity equivalent of the needs of 3m homes - a huge contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions
I was pleased to see the recent report that Edinburgh has had its best ever year in attracting film and television companies to the city as a location for their productions. Examples include; period dramas Belgravia (ITV) and Debutante (Apple TV), Netflix’s series adaptation of David Nicholl’s best-selling novel One Day, and the David Tennant/Michael Sheen comedy series Good Omens. Bringing an estimated economic benefit to the city of £24m.
Leith has not missed out. Firststage Studios, based in the old Pelamis factory on Bath Road (which had already been used for the production of Avengers: Infinity War) is fully open for business.
And has already hosted filming of the highly successful Amazon series The Rig, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel Anansi Boys for Amazon Prime Video and Will Farrell’s Netflix Comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
Film production is now a booming industry thanks in part to the development of internet streaming so there are more opportunities, involving a wide range of highly qualified jobs such as sound, editing, and post production work. Film companies have told me they would like to recruit more local staff provided the skills are available. I am in touch with Skills Scotland to ask them to put courses in place in the Edinburgh area as a matter of urgency.
I greatly enjoyed the latest series of Guilt, the BBC crime drama set in Leith, and was particularly interested to see a scene set in the Granton gas holder, whose preservation and renovation as a symbol of the area has been a personal crusade of mine ever since I entered politics.
It was only when the camera panned further back and a second gas holder came in to view that I realised the scene had been filmed not in Granton but Glasgow.
We still have much work to do! ■
George Brown & Sons on The Shore, Leith, established in 1828