Report urges quick start to Portobello High School work

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COUNCILLORS have been asked to allow building work for the new Portobello High School to begin as soon as a conclusion is reached on the court appeal launched by Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG).

A report has been issued to councillors, with a decision due to be made at a full council meeting on Thursday.

The swift move is being taken to prevent any further delays to the new school following the appeal, providing it is rejected or dropped by PPAG.

The protest group is opposed to the new school being built on Portobello Park and previously took a legal challenge to the Court of Session to determine whether the city council had the right to build a replacement school on the park.

Last month, Judge Lady Dorrian confirmed that the local authority did have the power to appropriate “inalienable common good land”, which prompted PPAG to lodge an 11th-hour appeal.

As part of the report issued yesterday, councillors have been asked to formally approve the appropriation of an area of land in Portobello Park under Section 20 of the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003.

The Act was recently identified by the legal advisors as providing the council with a separate legal power to push forward the school plans.

The council said the 2003 legislation provides authorities with “the power to do anything they consider likely to promote or improve the wellbeing of its area and persons within that”.

City education leader Marilyne MacLaren said: “The fact we are submitting this report shows our continued dedication to this vital project and our commitment to see it through.

“The appeal by PPAG is now the only obstacle to the school being built at the earliest opportunity.”

Sean Watters, chair of Portobello For a New School (PFANS), welcomed the report and its recommendations.

He said: “This report demonstrates the painstaking process the council have followed throughout the last six years to replace our high school.

“The issue is, and remains, the need to provide a new school, and the longer it is delayed, the longer children in the community have to suffer.”

PPAG member Alison Connelly said: “The council have an obligation under the Town and Country Act to consult on their plans to appropriate Portobello Park. To date, they have failed to do so. The council must consider all representations made under the terms of this Act.”

The appeal is due to be heard on May 23 and 24, but the judgement could take months.

According to the council, the earliest the new high school could open is August 2014. However, if PPAG decides to drop its appeal, the school could open in January 2014.

COMMUNITY COUNCIL MEETING

AN emergency meeting of Portobello Community Council will take place on Thursday.

Portobello High School campaigners demanded the meeting in a bid to halt opposition to the project.

More than 70 residents signed a petition requiring Portobello Community Council to convene an emergency meeting within 14 days. It followed PPAG’s decision to appeal a Court of Session judgement, which could delay the new school by up to two years.

The meeting in Portobello Community Centre, Adelphi Grove, begins at 7.30pm.

Sean Watters, chair of PFANS, said: “We’re glad a meeting’s going ahead, but there may not be adequate time to let people know.”