Albert Dock: LHNCC’s objection

LHNCC objected because, among other things.

  • The alteration of the barrier is without planning permission and hence breaches legislation and various policies.
  • The application does not meet local development plan and other requirements.

below is the text of LHNCC’s objection: here is the original as a PDF.


26 January 2021


Daniel Lodge
Case Officer,
Waverley Court,
4 East Market Street,
Edinburgh  EH8 8BG

Dear Mr Lodge

Ref: 20/05548/FUL – Land to The South of Albert Dock Edinburgh
Ref: 20/05546/LBC – Land to The South of Albert Dock Edinburgh
Applicant: Forth Ports Ltd
Agent: Lesley McGrath, Holder Planning Ltd

I am submitting this objection to the applications listed above on behalf of Leith Harbour and Newhaven Community Council (LHNCC). Both applications have been reviewed by our Planning Sub-Group and the wider Community Council, in the light of a number of complaints received from local residents. This response, which incorporates the feedback from residents living alongside Albert Dock, is supported by all members.

Context for LHNCC objection

Forth Ports Ltd carried out unauthorised works to alter the bollard and chain perimeter barrier at the B-listed Albert Dock on 29 December 2020 (see photograph below). New modern panels of vertical railings have been installed between each bollard, which replace the original chains. We understand that this work has been carried out as a health and safety response to an unsupervised child jumping in the Dock on 16 September 2020.

LHNCC and local residents first raised objections to the then proposed works with Forth Port staff and the CEC Planning Enforcement team in November 2020. This was on the grounds that planning permission and listed building consent had not been applied for and the community had not been consulted. The works were again reported, this time as a breach of planning, on 29 December when Forth Port’s contractors arrived to start work on the dockside.

This is a second recent breach of the planning process – LHNCC lodged an official complaint about unauthorised works at the A-listed bridge near Teuchters Landing on 29 November 2020.

Grounds for LHNCC objection

The alteration of the bollard and chain perimeter barrier at Albert Dock on 30 December without planning permission is in breach of legislation and Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council policies. The works on a listed structure without planning consent is a criminal offence under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

Planning policy and context

This application also does not meet Edinburgh Local Development Plan (EDLP) polices (Annex 1) and other relevant Scottish Government and statutory agency requirements on conservation areas and listed structures (referenced below). Listed Building Consent (LBC) assesses whether the works will affect the historic interest of the listed dock and preserve or enhance the special character or appearance of the conservation area.Local authorities have a statutory duty to identify and designate areas of special architectural or historic interest and ensure that any alterations, for whatever reason, are carefully considered.

Scottish Government Scottish Planning Policy

According to Scottish planning policy, listed structures should be protected from demolition or other work that would adversely affect them or their setting. Any change to a listed structure should be managed to protect its special interest. Where planning permission and listed building consent are sought for development to, or affecting, a listed structure, special regard must be given to the importance of preserving and enhancing the structure, its setting and any features of special architectural or historic interest. The layout, design, materials, scale, siting and use of any development which will affect a listed structure, or its setting, should be appropriate to the character and appearance of the structure and setting.

Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Guidance

Albert Dock lies within the Leith Conservation Area (‘Old Leith and Shore’ sub-area). The Dock, together with its ‘…stone flagged and setted quayside with bollards, railway tracks and three travelling cranes…’, is Category B-Listed as being of special architectural and historical interest by Historic Environment Scotland. Bollard and chain barriers are a feature of many throughout the Conservation Area which protect dockside edges.

Conservation Area Character Appraisals identify the essential character of conservation areas. They guide the local planning authority in making planning decisions and, where opportunities arise, preparing enhancement proposals. The Character Appraisals are a material consideration when considering applications for development within conservation areas. Listed Building Consent (LBC) assesses whether the works will affect the historic interest of the listed dock and preserve or enhance the special character or appearance of the conservation area. The alterations at Albert Dock do not meet the recommendations in Edinburgh Local Development Plan (referenced in Annex 2).

Leith Conservation Area Character Appraisal

The character appraisal for the conservation area identifies the essential character of Leith. It should be seen as a material consideration in relation to this planning application. The streetscape section of the character appraisal specifically highlights the quayside areas being separated by bollards with chains linking them. Bollards with chains are a quintessential part of the public realm and streetscape within Leith. They can be found as perimeter barriers around the Albert and Victoria Dock Basins and along all parts of the nearby Shore area. This continuity is important to the character of the entire Leith conservation area. The replacement barrier panels are not in keeping with the Leith conservation area character appraisal and set a precedent for the wider area should this application be approved.

Scottish Government Planning Advice Note (PAN) 71: Conservation Area Management

The designation of a conservation area is a means to safeguard and enhance the sense of place, character and appearance of our most valued historic places. Buildings of character, listed buildings, scheduled monuments, trees, historic street patterns, open spaces and designed gardens and landscapes are important components of these areas.

Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS)

The alteration of the listed perimeter barrier at Albert Dock is in breach of Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS), which is designed to support good decision making for Scotland’s unique places. The designation of Albert Dock is the legal recognition of its importance as a historic site. The designation seeks to ensure that the cultural, social, environmental and economic value of Scotland’s historic environment makes a strong contribution to the development and wellbeing of the nation and its people. It should also ensure that sites and places are recognised by law through the planning system and other regulatory processes.

Managing Change in the Historic Environment

This HES policy states that decisions about listed structures should always focus on the qualities that make them important – their special interest. A range of factors contributes to a special interest, but the key factor when considering whether change should be made is overall historic character.

The Historic Environment Scotland listing for Albert Dock in Leith makes pointed reference to post and chain barriers to the perimeter of the swing bridge. Post and chain barrier is therefore in our view the barrier solution most in keeping with the dock edge itself and as mentioned above, already widely used throughout the entire conservation area. The modern fencing installed by Forth Ports at Albert Dock negatively impacts on the historic character of Albert Dock and the Old Shore area. It negatively impacts on the local community’s sense of place, identity and wellbeing.

Health and safety

LHNCC is aware of the health and safety aspects and that it is one of the considerations the planning process for applications (FUL) takes into account. However, we would like to point out that the assertion in the Forth Port’s Design Statement that ‘Garden gates provide direct access from the dwellings to the Dock edge’ is incorrect. The houses along Stevedore Place are separated from the dock edge by:

  • A 2 m wide fenced-in garden with a gate that can be easily locked with a padlock or similar.
  • A 3 m wide public footpath (approximately 150 m in length) that runs between the gardens and bollard and chain barrier. It is used primarily by residents and pedestrians as a walkway along the dockside.
  • A bollard and chain barrier, which is set approximately 1.5 m back from the dock edge.

Industry guidance and good practice set out in the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) publication L148 Safety in Docks: Approved Code of Practice and guidance (ACOP) specifically highlights taut chain as being an acceptable solution for a barrier rail in a dockside setting close to residential properties. There is no reason for it not to be acceptable at Albert Dock in Leith. To that end we are concerned that there is not a copy of completed Risk Assessment Form providing analysis behind the decision made by Forth Ports Ltd that rejects alternative and more appropriate solutions.

Community and statutory engagement

LHNCC is disappointed by the lack of engagement shown by Forth Ports and its approach to implementing the works without planning permission or consultation with the local community and statutory agencies. Works started on 29 December 2020; the day residents received the notification of the application for Planning. Consultee and Public official notifications for these applications were only made available week beginning 4 January with a closing date for comments set as 29 January 2021. This would appear to be a second recent breach of the planning process; we lodged an official complaint about unauthorised works at the A-listed bridge near Teuchters Landing in November.

LHNCC and local residents have been keen to meet constructively with Forth Ports Ltd to discuss options to improve safety that are not to the detriment of historic character. Residents have put together a letter and information that shows safety measures adopted at other comparable locations in the UK (see for example Annex 3, which shows the design of the perimeter barrier at Albert Dock in Liverpool, an area with much higher pedestrian footfall). However, despite numerous requests and pleas for meetings with the Port there has been no engagement from Port staff, beyond a standard response to say works were going ahead but that they are temporary.

Next steps

These issues are a cause for concern for the LHNCC and the Leith Harbour community. There is potential for this work to set a precedent for piecemeal and hastily installed safety measures that are detrimental to the amenity and historic character of the dock basins (which are not all in the same ownership) and the wider Shore area. LHNCC believes that a more considered and strategic approach to improving safety should be adopted, and one that does not negatively impact on the character of the Old Leith and Shore Area. We understand from Forth Ports that the recently installed fencing panels are temporary. We therefore look forward to engaging with Port staff, City of Edinburgh Council, relevant statutory authorities (Historic Environment Scotland) and the community to agree and take forward a more appropriate and permanent solution in due course.

LHNCC believes that Planning Enforcement should have a key role to play in the protection of conservation areas and listed structures such as the Docks in Leith Harbour. Guidance set out under Scottish Government Planning Advice Note (PAN) 71: Conservation Area Management questions the current reactive nature of local authority enforcement strategies, which result in investigation only when a formal complaint is made. Good practice for conservation areas set out in PAN71 states that local authorities should consider a more proactive approach, including monitoring development activity and ensuring compliance with the terms of planning permissions. Such a positive and active approach to enforcement will help to reduce the number of contraventions and secure sustained improvements in environmental quality.

Yours sincerely

Jennifer Marlborough, Secretary, LHNCC 


Annex 1 – Contraventions of the Edinburgh Local Development Plan 2016

DES 1: Design Quality and Context

The modern fencing panels installed by Forth Ports Ltd at Albert Dock are inappropriate and not in line with the considerations set out in the ELDP. They are, by Forth Port’s own acknowledgement in the Design Statement, designed to match the garden fencing of the nearby Cala housing development (constructed in 2014). The scale and form of the panels conflict with the scale and form of the historic dockside – both at Albert Dock and within the wider Shore area.

DES 3: Development Design

As above, Forth Ports have not considered the existing historic and listed features, by altering them to reflect the garden fence design at the adjacent residential development at Stevedore Place. The fence panels have resulted in an unacceptable visual impact on the character of the dockside and the removal of the chains has resulted in an unacceptable physical impact on the listed structures.

DES 4: Layout Design

As above, Forth Ports has not considered the surrounding context. Albert Dock is part of the Old Shore Conservation Area. The new fence panels at the dockside edge negatively impact on existing eye-level views along the public right of way along the list dockside and the character and streetscape of the wider Shore area.

DES 10: Waterside Development

The south side of Albert Dock is not part of the operational port and the existing path that separates the houses at Stevedore Place with the Dock is a public right of way. The new modern fence significantly diminishes the public frontage of the waterside. It negatively impacts on the conservation and landscape interests of the water environment and creates an unnecessary visual and physical barrier that prevents the enjoyment of the many residents and visitors who use the public footpath for recreation, exercise and to enjoy (and photograph) the historic dockland area.

ENV 3: Listed Buildings – Setting

Albert Dock forms part of the Port of Leith and its function is intrinsic to its character, appearance and historic interest. The altered barrier to the B-listed dock is visually detrimental to the architectural character, appearance and historic interest of the dock and its setting.

ENV 4: Listed Buildings – Alterations and Extensions

The modern fencing panels are not justified on the grounds that they are required to address health and safety risk on the basis of a single incident. The barrier is an unsympathetic modern design that has been created to copy the garden fencing in a nearby modern housing development – it is not appropriate in design, scale and materials to the listed structures.

ENV 6: Conservation Areas – Development

Albert Dock is within the Old Leith and Shore area of the Leith Conservation Area.  The Character Area Appraisal specifically mentions the bollard and chain style perimeter barrier as part of the streetscape at the Shore. The modern fencing panels installed by Forth Ports are inappropriate and unsympathetic to the listed structures and the Shore streetscape. The do not reflect the special character of the Old Shore conservation area. Other dockland areas in other UK cities have address health and safety issues without compromising the historic character. For example, Albert Dock in Liverpool retains bollard and chain barriers, but there are four rather than two chains and they are thicker.

 Annex 2 – Contraventions of the Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas guidance[1]

Part 2 – Conservation Areas/Conservation Area Character Appraisals (page 23)

  1. Special attention must be paid to the character and appearance of the conservation area when planning controls are being exercised. Most applications for planning permission for alterations will, therefore, be advertised for public comment and any views expressed must be taken into account when making a decision on the application.

 General Principles (page 24)

  • Designation of a conservation area does not mean development is prohibited. However, when considering development within a conservation area, special attention must be paid to its character and appearance. Proposals which fail to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the area will normally be refused. Guidance on what contributes to character is given in the conservation area character appraisals.
  • The aim should be to preserve the spatial and structural patterns of the historic fabric and the architectural features that make it significant.
  • Preservation and re-use should always be considered as the first option.
  • Interventions need to be compatible with the historic context, not overwhelming or imposing.
  • Without exception, the highest standards of materials and workmanship will be required for all works in conservation area

 EDLP Des 12: Extensions and Alterations (page 24)

  • Proposals must preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area.

 Annex 3 – Albert Dock in Liverpool

[1] Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Guidance (City of Edinburgh Council – updated February 2019)

One thought on “Albert Dock: LHNCC’s objection

  1. Pingback: LHNCC January 2021 minutes

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