Portobello High: Fresh drive brings huge response

An artist's impression of the proposed new Portobello High School which will be sited on the park. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the proposed new Portobello High School which will be sited on the park. Picture: contributed
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A BID to renew planning permission for construction of a high school in Portobello Park has drawn nearly 1000 responses from supporters and objectors.

The application will be ­considered at a meeting of the council’s development ­management sub-committee on Wednesday, with deliberations set to be “televised” across the Capital by webcast.

In total, 574 representations of support have been submitted and a further 362 have objected to the application, which would allow education chiefs to build replacement premises for ­Portobello High on the legally protected green space.

Fresh evidence of division over the plans has emerged as MSPs prepare to publish a key report on a parliamentary Bill aimed at opening the park up for school-related development by changing its status from “unalienable” to “alienable Common Good land”.

As long as MSPs are in ­support, the council’s new planning bid would allow work on the school to start as soon as the Bill is passed, regardless of when that might be.

Local campaigners in favour of the project said the support and objection figures indicated a feeling of uncertainty after an appeal by residents opposing the council’s plans was upheld by the Court of Session. Sean Watters, chair of Portobello for a New School (PFANS), said: “It was inevitable the new application would get a big response – it’s a big issue. But it’s a formality, really. It’s the exact same proposal – the policy hasn’t changed.

“The first time round there were about 300 against and 381 in favour of the application, so actually it has shifted to slightly more support.”

Warning of increasing levels of community fatigue over the issue, he added: “There will be a lot of people the first time round who supported the application but just assumed it would go through.

“There are more people who have made the effort this time because of the court case.

“I think there was a bit of a shock and the feeling that it might not happen, and that has spurred people to come out in support.

“Apart from the court case, this has always gone our way, at every stage – to that extent I am hopeful the Bill will be approved and work can start.”

But campaigners fighting the council’s plans said the numbers coming out in favour and against the new application highlighted the extent of divisions in Portobello. Alison Connelly, spokeswoman for Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG), said: “There are still huge issues regarding the planning application, in particular in connection with traffic and open space considerations.

“There were more objections this time compared to first time round, and the planning committee are being asked to pass an application to build when it is currently illegal to do so.

“Having said that, we have no doubt that the council will once again award themselves permission for this ­controversial plan.”

Follow the debate online

LOCALS on both sides of the Portobello High debate will be able to view discussion of the council’s latest planning bid as it is webcast live during Wednesday’s development management sub-committee meeting.

And anyone who misses the debate will be able to catch up once archiving of the webcast is complete and it becomes available to watch on the council’s site. The recording will also be accessible via smartphone and tablet, with viewers able to watch it with the help of pause, fast forward and rewind functions.

Archived webcasts – which are available for five years from the live date – can be found at www.edinburgh.public-i.tv/core.