City of Edinburgh Council wants new premises for Portobello High to be sited on a public park, saying it would offer the most viable replacement for the current building, which is housed in a 1960s tower block that is generally accepted to be in a poor state of repair with limited sports facilities. The school has about 1,400 pupils.
However, last September local residents successfully appealed against a decision granting permission to build on the park, which was deemed “common good land” in perpetuity in the late 19th century.
The dispute has been running for more than seven years, pitting two action groups against one another – Portobello for a New School (PFANS) and those who are opposed to building on the proposed site, Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG).
Now the council is consulting on its private bill proposal, which it says has drawn more than 3,000 responses, the biggest ever number to any public consultation by its Children and Families Department. It runs until the end of the month, with views being canvassed in supermarkets, libraries and public meetings.
In a move criticised by some, children have also been allowed to register their views.
The second of two public meetings is scheduled tonight (Thursday, January 17) in a local sports centre, and is expected to attract a capacity audience of several hundred participants.
Portobello, located on the coast three miles to the east of Edinburgh’s city centre, was first earmarked for a new high school almost 10 years ago.
Last April the council formally decided to appropriate part of the park but PPAG won its subsequent appeal on the grounds it was unlawful.
Diana Cairns of PPAG said the consultation was a “sham” and the council was intent on “steamrollering” the park site through because planning permission for the project, with Balfour Beatty as the contractor, expired in 2014.
She continued: “They’ve become entrenched in their desire to build on the park at all costs when there are brownfield sites that would be much more suitable. They also knew there was very little chance of appealing in the Supreme Court against our victory, which is why they opted for this so-called consultation.
“It’s a sham because many people close to the park have not even received the council’s leaflets and the idea that it is open to children makes it impossible to verify.”
The council said its plans included the creation of new green space on the site of the current school.