Primary wants to expand play area into city street

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IT’S the trailblazing playground revamp that’s guaranteed to stop traffic.

One of the Capital’s most overcrowded schools is bidding to permanently close a section of busy road as part of radical plans to swell its cramped play space.

Sciennes Primary could see the size of its playground more than double under blueprints being drawn up by the Friends of the Sciennes Trust.

It would mean closing a key stretch of Sciennes Road next to the Sick Kids but any expansion plans would coincide with the hospital’s expected relocation to Little France by 2017.

But motorist groups have warned that inadequate planning could see surrounding streets transformed into rat runs following a road closure and argued that it should be considered a last resort.

Landscape architect Martin Stevens, who has helped draw up renovations for Sciennes Primary and other schools across Edinburgh, accepted there may be frustrations but urged drivers to consider the bigger picture.

“The consideration of why this is being done is perhaps something that I would hope tempers people’s concerns about not being able to drive where they used to,” he said.

“What we’re trying to do is create a series of interventions so that playground capacity is as much about a variety of disparate activities than it is about pure square meterage – and Sciennes has a fantastic opportunity to provide both,” he said.

The designs would also boast an array of play features including a mini-ampitheatre, floor paintings and dens at the 600-capacity school.

But Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said boosting playground space by closing off roads was unprecedented in his experience.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of a school being expanded through taking up a road,” he said.

“When you have an area where there’s lots of car ownership, any loss of road space is likely to lead to problems.

“It should be seen as a final option, after they have exhausted all other avenues [for expanding the school].”

Education leaders have branded the plans as “ambitious” but stressed that any progress on the designs would take place gradually.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader at Edinburgh City Council, said: “We are having discussions about making this a reality.

“There’s a tremendous amount of partnership working happening right across the city and it’s absolutely fantastic to see. The council is ­playing a role in supporting this and we are looking at how we can assist and develop further ­programmes at schools across the city.”