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Continuing opposition to Portobello school

This news post is over 8 years old
 

Opposition mounts to the building of a new school in a park in Edinburgh's Portobello in the face of plans to change the law to enable it to go ahead

It is an issue dividing a normally laidback community, and if objectors get their way, plans for a brand new state-of-the-art school in Portobello won’t go ahead.

This week objectors said they would mount “vociferous” opposition to plans to build the school in Portobello Park, as a Scottish Parliament committee convened to consider written objections the Edinburgh City Council (Portobello Park) bill – a private bill put forward by the council in a bid to overturn a legal decision preventing it from building in the park.

Despite the bill likely to become legislation, campaigners, who after winning the historic legal battle in 2012 to block the initial plans to build on the park, say they will continue to mount oppostition "at every turn".

Their continued opposition to the bill, flies in the face of other local groups who claim the current high school is not fit for purpose and the park is the only viable option for a new school.

If the City of Edinburgh Council is successful in passing this bill then other local authorities throughout Scotland would introduce similar measures – Mike Cardwell

However, Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG), the organising force behind the objections, says the bill would create a precedent for other councils to build on green space across Scotland.

Campaigners believe the land, given to the public for perpetuity back in the late 19th century, has been deliberately run down by the council.

They want it to be redeveloped as a natural community resource for all to use.

Mike Cardwell, an objector and supporter of PPAG, said the issue went beyond a local community at loggerheads.

He said many of the objections – over 500 – were concerned the bill would set a precedent for the removal of the current legal protection for parks and open spaces.

“Ultimately, if the City of Edinburgh Council is successful in passing this bill then other local authorities throughout Scotland would introduce similar measures,” he said.

“Stated bluntly, it would set a precedent for other common good land throughout Scotland to be built upon.

“One of the consequences of this would be to undermine the security of Scotland's park land for future generations.”

Faye Arnold, who backs the council’s plans, however, told TFN the issue is being driven by a number of “prominent, middle class people” who are more interested in their house prices than the local community.

“Protesters aren’t making any sense,” she said. “It’s gone on too long. The bill has been a last resort and the majority of residents support it.

“We’re seeing a very articulate minority of people who worry more about the value of their homes than they do the community."

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP and a former Edinburgh councillor, agrees. She said after 10 years of opposition to the bill, it should be supported.

“The choices we face now, with so much water having flowed under the bridge, are different,” she said.

“The school has planning permission to be built in the park and a contractor is in place to do so.

“The consultation a year ago had a massive response and a fairly hefty majority in favour of building in the park.

“However many criticisms one can level at the community consultation, it is difficult to argue that the will of the community is other than that which emerged from the consultation.”

ForAgainst
Pro-school campaigners say building on Portobello Park is the best option for the community. As well as a brand new, state-of-the-art high school to benefit 1,400 children for generations to come, the new school offers two full-sized all-weather pitches that will be freely accessible to the public. And the council will put £1 million towards a brand new public park on the site of the existing high school – a new facility for the community that more than compensates for the loss of an under-used park that takes up just 3% of the open space in the catchment, say campaigners. PPAG says the park is the only sizeable piece of green land in the area and is much used by a wide variety of local residents, golfers, dog walkers and nature lovers. Its aim is to preserve it for future generations to enjoy because, once built upon, it will be lost forever. Moreover, the park is inalienable common good land and belongs to the public under Scottish law. With a little investment the park would once again become an asset to the whole community. And going against this would create a precedent for all local authorities in Scotland to build on similar common good land.
 

Comments

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Bob
over 8 years ago
A factual correction: Portobello Park was not, as stated, "given to the public". It was bought at market value. And to put the level of opposition in perspective, a significant majority (76%) of the local community responded in favour of the Private Bill to allow the school to be built on the park.
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Bob
over 8 years ago
An indication of the support for and against the school on the park can be seen from the the popularity of the respective Facebook Pages. 'A New Porty High School in the Park' currently has 2599 Likes, while 'Save Porty Park' has just 358.
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Gillian
over 8 years ago
Another couple of factual corrections. There is no opposition to a new Portobello High School. The opposition is to the loss of inalienable common good land that is Portobello Park. Bob only tells part of the story. The most affected area is actually 70% opposed to the park's loss. This area is also one of the most economically deprived areas in the PHS catchment. I don't dispute that most of the parents in the area have been convinced by the professional PR campaign which has been running for the last 8 years, telling them that the park is the only option.
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Bob
over 8 years ago
PPAG like to claim that they do not oppose the new school, while simultaneously opposing the only viable site. Nice of Gillian though to admit that our campaign won hands down. Sure, it benefited from the freely given advice and assistance from a number of local parents, including experts in public relations and social media but our promotions totalled around £2k and were financed entirely by donations from the community. We didn't have the millionaire residents of Park Avenue, desperate to preserve their property values, to bankroll us. Your 'poor, deprived local residents' card is bunkum, your 'green' pretensions are greenwash and your entire campaign is discedited and utterly defeated.
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Gillian
over 8 years ago
The 'millionaires of Park Av" is another clever PR ploy. The Park Avenue of Portobello/Duddingston is a far cry from that of New York. The street is in fact dominated by flats and is not the millionaire row Bob would have folk believe. The park is surrounded on two sides by local authority housing schemes, both areas of relatively high social deprivation. The school could be rebuilt on its existing site as other schools have been across the country. There is no need to take precious green space to deliver a new school. The Green's position on this subject is frankly staggering. It appears to boil down to "we know it's wrong but it's got this far and people are very upset about not getting their new school so we should all just go along with it".
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Bob Jefferson
over 8 years ago
Saving green space is a noble cause, but it is not an end in itself as most people, including the Green Party understand. In this case, the use of part of the park to provide a site for a much-needed new school is justified because it serves the greater good of the community. The new park, with a £1M budget, will replace most of the green space in any case. You lost the argument years ago.