Neighbours slam ‘brutal’ school plans

An artist's impression of the new James Gillespie's High School campus
An artist's impression of the new James Gillespie's High School campus
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NEIGHBOURS of a high school proposed for redevelopment have launched a petition against the “brutal” impact of the new buildings.

The long-awaited redevelopment of James Gillespie’s is to be considered by city planners next Wednesday and they are being urged to listen to householders’ concerns before agreeing to proposals.

The main objections centre on the “over dominance” of a new pool and sports building planned for the school’s Lauderdale Street campus.

Residents in the neighbouring Thirlestane Road and Spottiswoode Road fear it will intrude on their privacy while noise and artificial lighting will also have a negative impact.

“The buildings should be much further away . . . so they will not impact on the community in this brutal way,” one resident, living on Spottiswoode Road notes on the petition.

“This is an opportunity to improve on the present 1960s buildings rather than have things made worse by out of scale and insensitive brutalism and ill-considered design.

“The buildings at the Spottiswoode Road end are out of keeping with Marchmont as a conservation area.

“The sports complex is too close to the tenements and will have an adverse effect through loss of light in the back and front gardens. We are very concerned about the night lighting and the noise caused from the sports complex.”

The city council unveiled its designs for the new school in August, following a consultation with residents.

Revised designs were submitted in December to address concerns about the new sports building, however these have also been rejected by residents.

The changes included a grass roof for the swimming pool and lowering the roof level.

The sports building will not be used outside school hours.

But one Thirlestane Road resident said: “I find the minimal alterations made to the sports buildings plans to be totally inappropriate.

“The building hasn’t moved further back from the adjacent garden wall and addition of a turf roof quite frankly looks ridiculous. It is a sad fact that the design is still hideous.”

The £44 million “school of the future” will retain the A-listed 16th-century Bruntsfield House as a centrepiece. It will be similar to a university campus, with open-plan spaces, relaxed areas for studying and eating, and access to computers and wifi throughout the school.

The new designs include outside classrooms leading from indoor teaching areas.

Paul Godzik, Labour’s education spokesman and ward councillor for Meadows and Morningside, said: “The residents are very much on board with regards to delivering a new school, but that shouldn’t be at any price. They have legitimate concerns. The planning committee have to look at this very closely.”

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: “I am satisfied the new plans will be as in keeping as possible with the local landscape, whilst maintaining the highly innovative design features.”

gfraser@edinburghnews.com