Councillors will discuss the report at their meeting on Tuesday 23 February.
An update is to be given on the potential future uses of the former Cockenzie Power Station site and the area around it, and how it connects with Scotland-wide economic and climate change aims.
Councillors are being asked to note the progress of different elements including the feasibility of a port/cruise terminal; continuing engagement with the Scottish Government over the future of this nationally-important site; a proposal by Prestonpans Community Council to set up a steering group to progress development of the site; and a community-led 360 degree proposal for part of the power station footprint.
In particular, councillors are being asked to agree a response to the Scottish Government’s recently published position statement on the emerging National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) which in due course will replace National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3) which still remains in force.
The report to Council acknowledges the energy related projects that are compliant with the current NPF3, and that that the site could accommodate in the future in the national interest. The key to promoting wider proposals with more employment opportunity is dependent on the future designation of the site (or indeed part of the site) within the emerging NPF4. The outcome of this national policy review therefore needs to be known before potential major projects, that don’t align with NPF3, may be brought forward. The report updated councillors on the continued engagement with Scottish Government officials on this matter and on the wider national development proposal that council officers hoped would be influential in shaping an updated national policy position in terms of the Cockenzie site, Blindwells new settlement and in the wider context of the proposed ClimatEvolution Zone overall.
Early in 2020, the Scottish Government issued a “call for ideas” for projects, policies or sites which could be considered in terms of national significance for its emerging NPF4 - a long term plan for Scotland which will set out where development and infrastructure is needed to support sustainable and inclusive growth up to 2050. The former Cockenzie site is already designated a National Development under NPF3. The Scottish Government recently published a Position Statement which gathers together the submitted ideas, and signposts potential high level themes for NPF4.
The council is promoting National Development status for the wider area around Cockenzie, including Blindwells, to support ambitions for sustainable inclusive growth and an emerging vision for the area to be an influential, innovative, healthy and carbon neutral place. In May 2020, the area was proposed to the Scottish Government for inclusion in NPF4 on that basis. Tuesday’s report to council asks for permission for a further response to be sent to the Scottish Government’s Position Statement to highlight how the council and partner organisations’ high-level aims for the area fit with the government’s now stated themes for NPF4, namely:
- Net zero emissions
- Building resilient communities
- A growing economy that supports wellbeing
- Building better, greener places, and;
- Enabling delivery
If agreed at Tuesday’s meeting, the latest response from the council and Blindwells developers to the Positon Statement will reinforce the joint response issued in May 2020 by the council and Blindwells developers Hargreaves and Taylor Wimpey, plus many wider partner agencies, all of whom are committed to working together on the proposed ClimatEvolution zone for the whole area which would ensure that all development would be sustainable and for the benefit of communities and the environment.
Councillors will also see in the report that there has been further progress in exploring the feasibility of a port/cruise terminal at Cockenzie.
- Additional work has been carried out to the existing AECOM feasibility study (commissioned by the council last year) to investigate the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the cruise industry and how this might affect any such potential development at Cockenzie. The additional research shows a significant impact on the cruise industry with major changes to how cruises will operate in the near future and an estimated six years before the industry returns to operational capacity and profitability comparable to pre-pandemic 2019 levels.
- The feasibility study also states that most ports have cruise as a more minor element of their business. A dedicated cruise terminal would only likely be possible with direct investment from a large cruise operator or consortium of operators. It was also noted that competition already exists from terminals at Leith, Rosyth, Newhaven and South Queensferry.
- Discussions have taken place with Scottish Government officials to raise awareness of the feasibility study for Cockenzie.
Councillors are also asked to note that Prestonpans Community Council has contacted the council to propose the creation of a steering group to “build on what has already been established in the council AECOM report, the positive feedback from Scottish Government and more importantly take the initiative forward to a stage that the council could hit the ground running once NPF4 is published”. The report to council suggests that, while noting this, the timing is not right to commit limited resources to a steering group while the outcome of the government’s decision on NPF4 is still awaited.
The public report to councillors for consideration at their meeting on 23 February can be viewed on the council website.