£1m park plan for old Portobello High School site

An aerial view of the site currently occupied by the two schools
An aerial view of the site currently occupied by the two schools
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IT was a saga that stirred up years of tension in the Portobello community.

Building a new high school on protected parkland caused plenty of controversy, with opponents bemoaning the loss of green space.

But residents across the seaside town are now being brought together to decide how to spend £1 million which has been set aside to replace Portobello Park – on the site of the olds chool.

They will be canvassed on their thoughts for a design and name for the new park, which will sit alongside the new St John’s Primary and should be ready by the end of 2018.

Community leaders today welcomed the move – but they stressed the green space would have to be innovative.

Sean Watters, secretary at Portobello Community Council, said: “We have Rosefield Park and Figgate Park, and we’ve got the beach, so whatever they do in this park, it has to be different and it has to meet a different sort of need.

“When the idea of a park was discussed as the Bill [to build the school on Portobello Park] was going through parliament, there was talk about people wanting orchards and growing spaces.

“There were people angling for some kind of skate park or youth area. There’s been a variety of suggestions. Maybe it could be something specific such as a space for the disabled. It’s about the kind of park that suits people who cannot use the existing parks easily.”

Park managers at the council said they would launch an online survey on Monday.

Other planned events include a door-to-door consultation of homes surrounding the proposed park, as well as meetings at street stalls and libraries.

The Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust said it would use public feedback to develop three draft design options for consideration, allowing the final blueprint to be put together by spring next year.

Mr Watters said the investment created huge opportunities for the town.

“People have lots of opinions about it,” he said. “£1 million is a lot of money – it will go a long way – [and] this will be a great asset.”

City leaders have hailed the consultation launch.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “These contributions will play a vital role in determining the final design and will help us to create a thriving green space for all of the community to enjoy.”

Education leaders secured permission last summer to build a £41m replacement school in Portobello Park – six years after the plan was first approved.

Local residents opposed to the proposals successfully appealed to the Court of Session, plunging the project into uncertainty.

The city council was forced to take a Private Bill through the Scottish Parliament in a bid to switch the park’s legal status and open it up for education-related development. Work is now under way on the school.

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com