A NEW high school in Portobello would take up just three per cent of green space in the area, supporters of the plans claimed today.
Opponents of the scheme, Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG), had said that “a substantial area of public open space” would be lost.
But the analysis, produced by Portobello for a New School (PFANS), insisted it would take up just 2.5 hectares – including parking and surrounding landscaping – of the 74 hectares of parks, pitches and common good land in the Portobello catchment.
PFANS added that a further 1.4 hectares of all-weather playing fields at the school would be available for public use. Its figures were based on data in the city council’s Open Space Audit.
Parent Lee Kindness, who produced the new data, said: “It’s important that people look at the bigger picture. The desperately needed new school will take up a fraction of the green space we’re lucky to have in Portobello and will bring huge benefits to the 1400 children who attend it.
“They’re entitled to green space to work and exercise in as much as anyone.”
PPAG member Diana Cairns, however, disputed the analysis.
She said: “We have said for at least two years now that the school being built on Portobello Park would result in the loss of 25 per cent of Portobello Park land, and I find it strange that only now are PFANS challenging that figure.
“We have done an analysis of the structures that will be put on Portobello Park and there will be eight per cent of the park left as open space. The rest of it will be taken up by the school buildings, the all-weather pitches and car parking.”
Another PPAG member, Alison Connelly, added: “The main point of interest in what PFANS say is that the new school, including car parking and landscaping, will only take up 2.5 hectares.
“This is crucially important as the existing high school site is 2.9 hectares, and this proves what PPAG have always said – that it would be possible to rebuild on the existing site, and pupils could walk to Portobello Park to access playing fields for their sports activities.
“This would allow Portobello to have a new school and keep precious green space.”
The analysis was released after more than 70 residents signed a special petition triggering an emergency meeting of Portobello Community Council, where PFANS will call for an end to opposition of the project.
As well as requesting the meeting to urge PPAG – a member organisation of the community council – to drop the appeal, frustrated parents and residents also want it to stop promoting what they claim are “factual misrepresentations”.
A petition calling on PPAG to “Drop the Appeal” has now secured 1500 signatures.
Huge posters which echo the message have been put up in the windows of shops and homes in Portobello. A new poster will be unveiled in the former Portobello Stationers on the High Street on Saturday.
City education leader, Marilyne MacLaren, said: “It has always been my understanding that Portobello had the most green space of any area in the city, so my briefings have completely supported what PFANS are saying. It’s only a small proportion of the park that will be used for the school and that will be open to the community out of school hours anyway.”