Western Harbour Masterplan

The project sought to create a vision for the sustainable development of a new urban quarter in Edinburgh’s Port of Leith. The previously consented masterplan was based on outmoded models of home ownership, car use, construction methods and use of materials. The opportunity to refresh this created the opportunity to deliver a residential led, mixed use community with a new park, a proposed new primary school, local amenities, shops and a waterfront promenade. The vision is to grow the place into a vibrant waterfront community which can act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of Edinburgh’s waterfront.

rankinfraser’s role was two-fold: 1. to develop the design of Western Harbour Park, the 4.7 ha park at the centre of the new masterplan and; 2. to develop the landscape and public realm proposals associated with the development of up to 2000 new homes.

rankinfraser were instrumental in creating the overall landscape and public realm vision for the masterplan and park design. We we fully responsible for leading on the park in terms of design, programming, dialogue with the client, the local authority and wider stakeholders.

The project represents a significant opportunity to deliver a substantial contribution to the Scottish Government’s committment to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2021. Western Harbour Park will be one of the largest new city parks built in Edinburgh for over a century and will make a significant contribution to the health, biodiversity and well being of both new residents and the many existing residents that have effectively lived with undeveloped brownfield land for many years.

The design team has adpoted a number of important placemenking principles to cultivate the new neighbourhood. These include:
- Celebration of site and context
- The design seeks to maximise the benefits of being on the coastal edge of Edinburgh with the creation of a car free harbourside promenade, sheltered public spaces and distinctive planting palettes.

The public realm design will deliver a clear hierarchy of public spaces from the 4.7ha Western Harbour Park, the 500m long harbourside promenade, car free public spaces and streets, pocket parks and private communal gardens. All public spaces are deliberately contained and overlooked by active frontages.

The innovative funding model for Western Harbour, considers the provision of homes and public realm as long term infrastructure rather than the short term/quick sale of the private sector. This allows for a longer term sustained investment into placemaking with the entire first phase of 938 homes, first phase of the park and the public realm all to be delivered within 2 years but owned and maintained over 25 years.

The project will be one of the first of scale to embrace City of Edinburgh’s new parking standards allowing for greater reductions in the provision of parking space to the benefits of improved public transport, foot and cycle provision. Car parking has been kept off street as far as practicable concealed below garden decks freeing the streets for people.

The masterplan represents a significant investment in the provision of well design affordable homes and public spaces in a city where housing is increasingly unaffordable for many. The design represents a well considered, humane and intergrated approach to placemaking that celebrates the specifics of the coasta/harbour location. The project was jointly led from the start by the Architects and Landscape Architects. It is a exemplary demonstration of what Landscape Architecture can add to community and environmental regeneration and the creation of places that people want to live.


  • Project Name

    Western Harbour Masterplan

  • Location

    Leith, Scotland

  • Category

    Masterplanning and urban design

  • Landscape Architect

    rankinfraser landscape architecture

  • Client

    Edinburgh Forthside Developments Limited

  • Brief

    The brief was to review and refresh an outdated Planning Permission in Principle (PPP) consent for the regeneration of Western Harbour in the Port of Leith, Edinburgh with a new masterplan focussing on affordable/managed rent homes, a new public park, harbourside promenade and high quality public realm. Forth Ports Limited first received Outline Planning Permission (now known as Planning Permission in Principle or PPP) for the development of the Western Harbour site in 2002. The Planning Permission was extended in 2009. The existing PPP consent included a mixed use urban neighbourhood and a new urban park and was based on a masterplan and design guide prepared by Robert Adam Architects in 2004 that was due to expire in March 2019. Part of the conditions attached to the original consent was that all detailed/Approval of Matters Specified in Conditions (AMC) applications must adhere to an agreed set of design guidelines contained in the 2004 masterplan. The decision to renew and refresh the consented scheme was taken after a long period of construction inactivity due to the 2009 recession and the delayed delivery of the Edinburgh Tram line to Leith. The revised masterplan was required to reflect the changing needs of the area in terms of increased provision of affordable housing, local facilities, a new primary school, new City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) Design Guidance and Local Plan requirements; and in anticipation of the long awaited tram line. The design team for the revised masterplan therefore had two primary tasks: 1. To refresh and update the previous design guidelines with a Revised Development Framework (RDF) document; 2. To develop detailed masterplan proposals for the park and residential neighbourhood to address the Approval of Matters Specified in Conditions (AMC). The task was therefore to develop a site specific, robust and deliverable masterplan for affordable/managed rental income homes and public facilities centred around a new public park and incorporating high quality public spaces and pocket parks.

  • Awards

    Finalist, Landscape Institute Awards 2019


  • Project Team

    Client - Edinburgh Forthside Developments Ltd Development Managers - Rettie & Co Project team Landscape Architects - rankinfraser landscape architecture Architects and Masterplanners - 7N Architects Infrastructure Engineers - Arup Civil and Structural Engineers - Woolgar Hunter M&E Engineers - Atelier 10 Planning Consultants - Holder Planning Transport Consultants - Sweco Project Manager - Gardiner and Theobald

  • Year Completed


  • Project Size

    7.15 ha

  • rankinfraser landscape architecture

    Registered Practice - (6 - 10 Employees)
  • Approximate Map Location


    Leith, Scotland

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