Fears Portobello High will dominate community vote

John Stewart says there are many other issues. Picture: Dan Phillips

John Stewart says there are many other issues. Picture: Dan Phillips

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FEARS have been raised that Portobello Community Council will become bogged down in controversy over a site for a new high school as rival campaigners flock to be elected.

A record-breaking 22 candidates have been listed in the ballot for the town, which has been divided over whether to develop a new campus within “common good” grounds at Portobello Park.

Sources said nominations for seats on the council – which has backed revised plans to build the school on parkland – have been dominated by the pro-school lobby Portobello For a New School (PFANS), which is thought to have links to half the candidates.

Plans to redevelop the school began in 2006, with studies launched to identify potential construction sites. Funding troubles delayed the project, and it was eventually derailed when a legal challenge to the preferred park site forced it into the long grass.

Now a private members Bill is passing through parliament aiming to reclassify Portobello Park as “alienable common good land”, removing a legal barrier to using it as the site of a new high school.

More than 1300 people have signed a letter supporting the Bill, which has also seen 66 objections to the proposed change of legislation.

Alison Connelly, a spokeswoman for Portobello Park Action Group, which opposes building a school in the public park, fears grassroots politics in the town will be dominated by a single issue.

She said: “There seems to be a lot of interest in joining the community council by the PFANS which is a shame because I think it will become a single issue community council.

“Many people have been driven out of local politics because of the recent hostility and walked.

“But now I think you’re going to have a community council that will evaporate once the school issue goes the way it goes because there isn’t any substance behind it.”

John Stewart, current chairman of Portobello Community Council, said the school battle had undoubtedly contributed to the huge interest in its elections.

He said: “The siting of the new high school is the one thing that is sparked this interest, nothing else.

“If you have people who care a lot about Portobello and put themselves forward I’m sure they will be interested in lots of other issues not just the high school.

“There’s never been a need for an election before, whereas now there are a lot of people who obviously care about what happens in Portobello.”

PFANS leader in the running

THE chairman of a group formed to fight for the construction of a new Portobello school is among a record number of nominees for community council positions.

Sean Watters, chair of Portobello For a New School, pictured, has put himself up for a place on the Porto-bello Comm-unity Council comm-ittee.

Amo-ng the other 21 nomi-nees are Maria Devoy, from Brighton Place, Rosefield Street’s Bob Jefferson and Gillian Eunson, of East Brighton Crescent.

Geoff Lynn, Ben McLeish, Thea Jane McMillan and David Medcalf, who are all PFANS members, are also seeking election.

Voters are due to go to the polls for councils across the city on October 24.