Bid to ‘dismiss’ school challenge

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PARENTS, teachers and council chiefs fighting for a new high school on Portobello Park are hoping legal action from campaigners against the project will be kicked out as soon as it reaches court.

They believe Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) has left it too late to start court proceedings – and fear it may jeopardise the development as a result.

The group raised a petition in the Court of Session to try to stop a new Portobello High School being built on the site because it is common good land.

A hearing, which was originally due to be held over one day next week, is now set to take place over two on January 5 and 6.

But council chiefs have requested PPAG’s case be “dismissed” at the start of the hearing because of the time the group took to bring the action to court.

Sean Watters, chair of Towerbank Primary’s parent council and a member of Portobello For A New School, said: “People have to bring cases to court in good time, otherwise anybody can pop up at any time and throw a spanner in the works.

“There is the risk that if this does drag on and the judge takes a few months to consider it, then the contractor won’t be able to hold the tendering and we might have to have a whole new tendering process.”

The decision to build a replacement Portobello High School on Portobello Park was taken in 2008 and the council argues PPAG had sufficient time to take legal action.

The timing of the legal bid – which was launched in August – already means the new Portobello High will not open in August 2013 as hoped, and will be put back to at least January 2014. However, the legal action has the potential to delay the project further, or even stop the development.

Billy MacIntyre, head of resources for the council’s children and families department, said: “It has been established with the Court of Session that court diaries cannot accommodate full consideration of this matter, including whether the petition should be dismissed because of the delay issue, before the original allocated date of December 9.”

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said she appreciated the courts had recognised the “urgency of our case” by giving the council the “earliest available dates for the review”. She added: “However, I’m extremely disappointed that PPAG are continuing with action that is delaying the start of this important project.”

Ros Sutherland, chairwoman of PPAG, said: “As far as we’re concerned, the hearing is going ahead. It would have been resolved in one day because the petition we lodged was identified as requiring only one day, but the council’s intervention has resulted in a further delay and it now requires two days.”