Work set to start on new Portobello High

An artist's impression shows the interior of the new Portobello High School which will be built on the park. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression shows the interior of the new Portobello High School which will be built on the park. Picture: contributed
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BUILDERS will move into Portobello Park this month as work on the long-awaited new high school gets under way.

A perimeter fence will be erected around the site, with plans in place to construct the school’s steel structure by the end of the year.

Pupils will also play their part in the £41 million project, making regular visits to the site, taking part in design sessions and keeping a watchful eye on the progress via webcams from their classrooms.

Community leaders fighting for a new school said the sight of contractors rolling into the park would be welcomed.

Sean Watters, chair of 
Portobello For A New School (PFANS), said: “I think there will be quite a lot of excitement, actually, and I think it will come as a huge relief for most people that the school can finally go ahead.

“And I know they’re trying to involve the cluster schools – pupils and staff – and give them input into the final design choices for the school, which is exciting as well.”

The timetable comes after the Scottish Parliament passed legislation in June which allowed the new high school to be provided on land at Portobello Park – ten years after the project was first put forward.

Plans for replacement premises stalled in 2012 when campaigners fighting the proposals lodged a successful appeal with the Court of Session after it emerged the park was legally protected.

But city chiefs last year submitted a private bill which switched its status and opened it up for education-related development.

Around 1400 pupils are currently being taught in a crumbling 1960s tower block, now in such poor condition that parts of the roof are reported to have blown off in strong winds.

Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG), which campaigned against the council’s plans, said it was a “pity” that the area was about to lose a valued green space.

Member Stephen Hawkins said: “This will mean the loss of the park and the council have wasted four years in providing the new school. They have caused the delay – they made a mess of the court process and the Scottish Parliament had to rescue them.”

Education bosses said that providing timely and detailed information would be a priority throughout the construction works.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Keeping the local community updated about progress on the new Portobello High is really important and it’s great to see construction works now about to start.

“The Portobello community have waited many years for their new school which will be ready for the start of the academic year in August 2016.”

He added: “We are pleased to be working with Balfour Beatty on this project which will allow us to deliver high quality educational and sports facilities that I know will be welcomed by both the school and wider local community.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com