Terry Smith Forth Ports, Edinburgh Harbour Buildings, Waterfront Architect Project Designs, Madelvic Motor Company

Waterfront Forth Ports Granton Development

Forth Ports PLC : Granton Harbour Architecture Designs

14 Sep 1999

Terry Smith’s lengthy submission for The Edinburgh Echo regarding Forth Ports plans for Granton Harbour

14th September 1999; issued to this site by Anthony Macnaghten

Granton Harbour Development


Forth Ports have submitted an outline planning application to the Council, to allow for consultation and suggestions by local residents, and believe that there is a marvellous opportunity for the redevelopment of Granton Harbour to be a focus for the wider regeneration of the surrounding area.

The Edinburgh Echo have asked the Property Director of Forth Ports PLC to outline the proposals for readers, to allow reasoned discussion based on facts, rather than rumours or speculation. Terry Smith of Forth Ports has responded with the following article:

“There is unanimous agreement that Granton Harbour Harbour is a marvellous asset, but certain areas are somewhat ‘tired’ and require attention or upgrading in a way that is sensitive to both the natural and the built environment. The harbour area is also abused by the minority with fly-tipping, abandoned cars and vandalism and the redevelopment is planned to reverse this trend and bring a pride of ownership that can be enjoyed by all.


There is no disputing that Granton is an historic harbour and has been at the hub of the industrial and commercial growth of the city for the last 160 years. There have been massive changes over that period. The shoreline to the Firth of Forth originally followed the line of West Harbour Road, and the complete harbour has been reclaimed from the estuary. The first part of the Middle Pier was opened by Lord John Scott on 28 June 1838, the date of Queen Victoria’s Coronation, and named the Victoria Jetty in her honour.

The pier was extended and completed in 1844 and by 1863 the East and West Breakwaters were completed. In 1881 the first Ro-Ro train ferry service in the world came into operation from Granton to Burntisland, allowing a direct rail link from Edinburgh to Dundee, without leaving the train. Prior to this link, passengers travelled from Waverley Station to Granton by train, then by passenger ferry to Burntisland before joining a further train to Dundee. It was this very service on Sunday 28 December 1879 that was involved in the Tay Bridge disaster, with the loss of 75 passengers and crew.

The Madelvic Motor Company was founded in 1898 by William Peck, who was Astronomer Royal for Scotland, and it is acknowledged that the Granton works was the first purpose designed car factory in Europe. Parts of the offices and factory still exist within the United Wire complex at Granton. In 1905 the Scottish Motor Engineering Company set up a factory at Granton Harbour to construct “Granton” trucks and chain-driven buses. 1909 saw the erection of storage tanks on the West Pier for the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company.

Land Reclamation

In 1912 reclamation started along the shore between Middle and West Piers for standage for coal wagons from the Caledonian Railway Company. In 1921 an Ice Factory was built on the Middle Pier to serve the fishing industry. A massive coal conveyor was completed on Middle Pier in 1943. In 1961 further reclamation commenced in West Harbour for industrial and warehouse development and the harbour played its part in North Sea Oil fabrication and service industries.

All of the major industries have now gone. Some like the Madelvic Car Factory lasted only two years, others for several decades. Fishing, oil, esparto grass, coal, small craft building and repair, have come and gone, and Granton Harbour has survived and adapted. The loss by fire, of the Peebles Factory in Pilton Road rendered the ageing heavy lift berth redundant, but thankfully Forth Ports were able to offer VA Tech Peebles an integrated site in Leith for manufacture and load-out, which will become operational in August 2000. The local jobs have been saved and the company are set to grow to meet new market opportunities from the state-of-the-art premises in Leith.

In its heyday, Granton Harbour was a bustling, noisy, hive of industry, with constant train arrivals, commercial vehicle deliveries, coastal shipping, tankers, trawlers, ferries and cranes. Lower Granton Road even managed to carry trams as well as buses and vehicular traffic alongside the railway embankment. In 1971 around 30,000 people lived in the Granton area. By 1991 the population had dropped to just over 18,000 people.

“We believe that the history should be preserved and celebrated in the restoration of the harbour structures and buildings, on the breakwaters and public squares, and in the new public buildings that we have planned for the Middle Pier”.

Granton as a Yachting Harbour – Leisure Sailing

Just as sail gave way to steam, Granton Harbour has adapted to changing needs and has turned full circle back to sail, as a leisure harbour. Granton has enjoyed several royal landings over the years. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert landed at Granton Pier on 1 September 1842 from the sailing yacht Royal George, and the Duke of Edinburgh from Britannia in June 1955 for the “Edinburgh Cup” yacht race.

The Royal Forth Yacht Club and the Forth Corinthian Yacht Clubs have grown over the years and the Royal Yacht Britannia now proudly flies the blue ensign of the Royal Forth Yacht Club.

Leisure sailing at Granton suffered when Port Edgar marina opened, but the balance is now changing as the harbour is redeveloped and owners see the benefit of their vessels being located on the doorstep of the capital city, only 15 minutes from Princes Street Shopping.

Despite some recent press comments from people on the “fringe” of the sailing community, who claim that the harbour is swamped by 40’0″ high waves, the redevelopment is centred around providing better and affordable yachting facilities. Forth Ports have worked closely with both of the yacht clubs to attempt to improve facilities at the harbour, whilst keeping yachting affordable and accessible to all. Bids have been submitted on two separate occasions for Lottery and Sports Council funding, to improve facilities for the clubs and for visiting craft.

To date, these have been unsuccessful, but lead to the first marina berth being constructed two years ago in the East Harbour. This was a three-way effort by the clubs and Forth Ports, who dredged a box alongside the Middle Pier to make this possible. During these discussions, it became apparent that the West Harbour had numerous advantages over the East for sailing access, with minimal maintenance dredging required. The only problem on making this a permanent facility, was the access required by large barges and vessels to the heavy lift berth. This has now been resolved with the relocation of VA Tech Peebles to Leith.

Forth Ports have always provided leased facilities to the clubs on very economic terms, allowing the clubs to provide either “fore and aft” moorings, swing moorings, or marina berths at the lowest possible cost to members. The clubs have told us that there is a desire over “a number of years” to provide better marina facilities, with pontoon access at all stages of the tide, and a gradual reduction in the tidal moorings. These facilities have all been designed into the proposed layout and the clubs will still have the option of moorings or pontoon berths to their choice.

We are keen to maintain the affordability of sailing from Granton and will work with the clubs to enhance the facilities over the coming years.

Granton Harbour Moorings

There are presently 110 moorings in the harbour, plus room for 30 visitors on the pontoons, a total of 140 spaces. Currently around 100 yachts use the East Harbour. The application includes for a 360-berth marina in West Harbour, with overflow in the East Harbour for a further 140 vessels on fore & aft moorings and extension of the existing visitor pontoons, a total of 500 berths.

The 200% increase in capacity allows for the anticipated growth in leisure sailing that the enhanced facilities will bring and the further expected increase in yachting that will result when the Millennium Canal Link is opened, linking the Forth with the Clyde, via the Union and Forth and Clyde Canals. Forth Ports are playing a key part in this millennium initiative, with provision of facilities at Grangemouth Docks to make the link possible.

The Royal Forth Yacht Club has a membership of 501, and have written to the planning authority supporting the planning application. The Forth Corinthian Yacht Club have a membership of 138, of which many are also members of the R.F.Y.C.
We understand from recent discussions with Council members of Forth Corinthian, that members are keen to retain around 25 fore and aft moorings in East Harbour.

The plan allows for this provision and more, as outlined before. We understand that this confirmation, and agreement reached on interim winter storage areas, will be considered at the next Council meeting, and may satisfy concerns raised by the club.

Read the rest of the article at Waterfront Granton Harbour

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