An update on redevelopment of the Cockenzie Power Station site was presented to elected members at Tuesday’s full meeting of East Lothian Council.

The site was acquired by the council in 2018 to promote economic growth and create employment opportunities. A vision was established through a community-based masterplanning project with ambitions identified to bring employment investment and jobs to the area, as well as enhancing public areas along the waterfront.

Since its purchase, the council has worked with the Scottish Government to secure an appropriate land use allocation in the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). NPF4, now adopted by the Scottish Government, identifies the Cockenzie site to generate employment and provide essential infrastructure for net zero. This gives more flexibility for development.

Recommendations to elected members

Councillors were asked to note progress towards regenerating the site.

Since the last update, the UK Government announced that the council had been successful in a £11.3M bid to round 2 of the Levelling Up Fund. This is to undertake site preparation and remediation works for future development including removal of earthwork bunds and using material to re-grade and level where the power station was situated, backfilling of tunnels, sea wall repairs and improvements to the John Muir Way through the site.

Councillors were asked to agree that officers progress Levelling Up Works, subject to planning, including designs and procurement of contracts.

It was agreed that no further work should be undertaken to advance the site as a major port facility and/or cruise terminal given the complexities associated with this and instead the site should be considered for a broader range of employment uses.

Finally, councillors noted that while a group has a vision for a climate change centre on the site, there is no current funding for this as well as risks and viability challenges.

Current developments

Inchcape Offshore Limited have commenced construction of the substation that 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.

The report notes that planning permission in principle is in place for Seagreen 1A’s substation, although a firm a development timeline remains to be confirmed. Planning permission has been granted for a link road that will run from east to west across the site. Timing of the construction of the road will be determined by the programme for construction of the Seagreen 1A development.

The other potential energy-related use is for a battery storage plant. A developer has begun a pre planning application consultation. This proposed location is between the link road and the National Grid substation within the area designated as an energy quarter in the 2018 community masterplan.

Community proposals

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 highlighted there are significant challenges in developing a port at Cockenzie. These include high capital costs with a long payback period and a potential lack of investment from the cruise industry. Proposals would require national level backing to be viable. NPF4 does not identify Cockenzie for port use.

Senior representatives of Forth Ports met with council officers last September. Forth Ports highlighted a number of issues/challenges including the seasonal nature of the cruise business, which clashes with the year-round nature of using a port for other cargo.

Cockenzie would be unlikely to be a home or turnaround port, more a port of call. Cockenzie would require constant management and maintenance dredging of a channel to accommodate cruise ships. It could be necessary to remove rock and gaining the necessary consents would be difficult. Other issues highlighted include accumulations of pollution in the silt of the Forth and the fact that much of the estuary foreshore is a Special Protection Area – any development proposals will have to pass stringent tests. Costs of undertaking the impact assessment required would be high.

The report highlighted a number of other practical challenges in relation to infrastructure, transport, practicality and potential berthing challenges.

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.

360 Study

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.

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 further paper will be brought forward after the summer.

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.

Next steps

A consultant will be appointed to design the Levelling Up works, further studies of the concrete slab, identify a programme and bring forward the necessary applications. Appointment of a contractor to undertake works would follow. It is anticipated works would start in early 2024 with completion targeted in 2025.

A technical masterplanner would be appointed to work with officers and the community to establish full development potential of the site and enable it to be marketed. It is anticipated that this masterplanning process will be complete by early 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.

The full report is available to read online.

Published: Tuesday, 27th June 2023