Portobello school campaigners in Holyrood petition

Parents and children have protested to get the school built. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Parents and children have protested to get the school built. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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CAMPAIGNERS fighting for a new high school in Portobello Park have launched a public petition in support of a new Private Bill which would allow education chiefs to build on the green space.

Parents have urged city residents to sign up and show their backing for the legislation – aimed at reclassifying the park as “alienable Common
Good land” and opening it up for education-related development.

And more than 900 people had signed up to the petition in just a few days after it launched.

The Bill’s introduction to parliament – where it will be subject to a 60-day consultation period and scrutinised by MSPs – came after judges last year threw out plans to build in the park when they upheld an appeal by Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) against the move.

Paul Smart, chair of Portobello High parent council, said: “I can say with absolute confidence that the overwhelming majority of the high school’s parent council and parents forum do not want any more children and their families to suffer the disappointment of delay.”

Alongside the petition, campaigners have also published an open letter to MSPs which explains their support for the council’s Bill and describes Portobello Park as “by far the best site” for a new school.

The park is “large enough to accommodate all the necessary facilities” and will “turn an under-used space into a valued community asset,” the letter states.

Confirming his backing for the petition, Mr Smart went on: “Neither of my boys will benefit from going to the new school – one left Porty last year and the other will finish in 2015.

“When they started at the school we all had high hopes that they would both flourish in fantastic state-of-the-art classrooms, sports halls, swimming pool and grounds.

“We tolerated inadequacies in the old,
exhausted building and were impressed at the commitment, tenacity and professionalism of the teachers despite
the sub-standard conditions they had to work in.”

However, the petition has been attacked by PPAG
leaders, who said parliamentary approval for the Bill would put green space across the country at risk.

Spokeswoman Alison
Connelly said: “We do not agree that the council have conducted the consultation rigorously or fairly.

“Our legal team, who have given us very good advice so far, confirm that despite claims to the contrary, this Bill absolutely will create a precedent, and that it is an issue that should concern MSPs.”

Council chiefs welcomed the new petition and said they hoped the Bill would progress quickly.

Education leader Paul Godzik said: “The council is delighted the Bill has been submitted on the back of our most successful consultation, which showed overwhelmingly that there is widespread support for our proposal.

“I look forward to parliament moving forward quickly with this.”