Former Cockenzie power station and surrounding area
The former power station site was acquired by the council in 2018 to support ambitions to promote economic growth and create employment opportunities. The vision for the site was established through a community-based masterplanning project and the ambitions identified to bring employment investment and jobs to the area, as well as enhance the public areas along the waterfront, remain our vision for the site.
It is important to recognise that large brownfield former industrial sites of this type are very complex and take a long time to come forward. Work has been continuing to seek Scottish Government support for the regeneration of the site through the National Planning Framework and a bid was made to the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund to start the remediation process.
Significant technical work has been taking place to fully understand and plan for the necessary infrastructure and environmental, economic and sustainability work needed to support the site’s development.
Levelling Up Fund Award
The UK Government Department for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing (DLUCH) announced on 18 January 2023 that East Lothian Council has been successful in its £11.3M bid to round 2 of its Levelling Up Fund. The basis of the bid is to undertake site preparation and remediation works at the Cockenzie site, to allow for future employment development. These works include:
- removal of the earthwork bunds currently surrounding the coal store
- using that bund material to re-grade and level the area where the power station stood
- re-grading other parts of the coal store to increase the area for beneficial development
- repair of the sea wall
- improvement works to the John Muir Way through the site
Since mid-January, we have been working with the UK Government to finalise details of the funding award. The aim is to submit planning applications in 2024 for these Levelling Up Fund works, which once consented would facilitate construction and completion in 2025.
On 23 October we submitted a pre-planning application consultation to East Lothian Council’s Planning Service on the proposals and that process lasted 12 weeks until early January 2024. As part of this we held two public drop in events, with the first taking place on 9 November in the Port Seton Centre. We will report back on feedback from that event and how we reacted to it at a second drop in event on 12 December in the Prestonpans Community Centre.
Following on form that process, planning, technical and environmental studies are being finalised before an expected planning application submission for the part of the works (removal of earthwork bunds and infilling and regarding the power station site and coal store) in March 2024.
Design work on the on the Sea Wall and John Muir Way is expected to begin in Spring and will be subject to a separate application.
We are also making our Levelling Up application form publicly available - with minor redactions due to commercial sensitivity.
National Planning Framework 4
The Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 4, adopted by the Scottish Government in February, identifies the Cockenzie site to generate employment and provide essential infrastructure for net zero. This gives more flexibility than the previous designation for thermal electricity generation and accords with the Council’s vision for future development at the site.
In 2019, Scottish Ministers granted planning permission in principle for an onshore substation, electricity cables and associated infrastructure to Inch Cape Offshore Ltd on part of the site. Detailed planning permission for that project then followed in detailed planning consent in January 2023. This will bring renewable electricity generated at sea to ground, for onward transmission to the National Grid, on the western part of where the power station was located. Enabling works for the substation were completed in autumn 2023 and construction of the substation began in January 2024 and is expected to last two years.
In August 2021, the council's Planning Committee unanimously approved outline planning permission for Seagreen to construct an electricity substation on another part of the site, taking power from an offshore windfarm and feeding it into the National Grid, with associated underground cabling. Detailed planning permission was granted in August 2023 but a firm development timeline remains to be confirmed with construction not expected to begin until 2025.
A pre-planning application notice (PAN) was submitted for a battery storage facility on land immediate to the south of the Scottish Power substation building. Following the completion of this process, we now understand that the applicant has submitted a planning application for the facility to the Scottish Government's Energy Consents unit. It is they who determine these larger scale energy applications and not the council, although it will be able to provide a consultation response to any proposals.
Link Road Proposal
The council’s proposal for the formation of a new link road through the site has planning permission, and its delivery will be considered in the wider context of the physical and technical works on the site as set out above.
The road would link the Alder Road junction on the B6371 approach to Cockenzie with the existing B1348 road. Much of the route would follow an existing service road to the former coal plant and be complemented by a lane, largely set back from the main roadway, to encourage safe walking and cycling.
Timing of the construction of the road will be determined by the programme for construction of the Seagreen 1A substation and its relationship with the levelling up funded works. Permitted tree removal for the link road has already begun to avoid impacts on the bird nesting season.
As set out in the report to Council in June 2022 and June 2023, there is need to undertake a full technical appraisal of the remainder of the site factoring in the consented and proposed energy developments as well as the proposed levelling up works. A technical master planner (consultants Stantec) has now been appointed to work with officers to undertake this to establish the site’s constraints, servicing requirements and subsequent full development potential of the site to enable it to be marketed. It is anticipated that this technical process will be complete by mid 2024. This is different from the 2017 masterplan in that it will set out how the site could be technically and physically redeveloped rather than high level options.
It is intended that the site is divided into development land parcels to provide flexibility, allowing land to be consolidated for a larger user or divided for smaller use types.
A number of potential economic/commercial uses have been mooted for the site.
There are also two community-led proposals, both of which have had the benefit of feasibility work funded by the council - for a port/cruise and the 360 climate change centre.
The report presented to the full council meeting in June 2023 highlighted there are significant challenges in developing a port at Cockenzie.
Councillors agreed that port proposals should not be taken further forward. The focus should be on employment-related, land-based development as supported by NPF4 promoting net zero infrastructure and significant economic opportunities.
The 360 group identifies a site area of c.10 hectares (where the main power station building was located, not including the Inchcape site) for a ‘National Centre for Climate Change - an innovative green space, community park and art installation of national significance’. This would include galleries, exhibition areas and a learning centre with proposals for training and skills development.
The centre - estimated to have a capital cost of £29.5m, including £6M for public art but excluding exhibits - would look to attract funding from a wide range of sources. Significant ‘ongoing revenue support’ and additional funding to refresh the attraction would be needed. The centre would require circa £400k per annum over the first five years in revenue support to break even. The report highlights a competitive landscape with other attractions in central Scotland including climate change elements, as well as considerable risks. Whilst the report suggests the proposed centre is economically unviable, the 2017 masterplan envisaged public realm improvements. Therefore there is overlap with the 360 group’s vision for public open space, public realm public art and greenspace improvements to the site.
The 360 team has submitted an application for planning permission in principle but the application could not be validated for technical reasons.
Representatives have been advised to further engage with members and the council on their ambitions.
A consultant has been appointed to design the Levelling Up works, undertake further studies of the concrete slab, identify a construction programme and bring forward the necessary applications to secure the consents required. Appointment of a contractor to undertake works would follow. Subject to planning, it is anticipated works would start in mid 2024 with completion targeted in 2025.
Technical work will continue to assess development potential as part of the wider Blindwells and a potential Climate Evolution Zone, including assessing flood risk and mitigation.
Liaison will continue with Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Futures Trust and Scottish Development International regarding the potential marketplace for UK-wide or international investments.
Going forward, as agreed by Council in June 2022, advisors will be appointed to develop a marketing strategy and market the site UK-wide and internationally, at the appropriate time.
These actions will contribute to development of the vision and continue progress the site towards development.
Page updated 1 March 2024