Work to begin on building new Portobello High in the autumn

An artist's impression of the new high school. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the new high school. Picture: contributed
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WORK on a new Portobello High School is set to start this autumn – but the delayed project is facing a £2.4 million jump in costs.

City leaders said a private Bill making its way through the Scottish Parliament, which would pave the way for construction to begin on legally protected land in Portobello Park, should obtain Royal Assent by the end of September – seven months later than expected.

New terms for construction have also been proposed, which education bosses admitted could result in an overall cost increase of up to £2.4m. But they stressed the project remained “well within” its £41.5 million budget.

Campaigners in favour of the plans said news of the delay was disappointing.

Sean Watters, chair of Portobello For A New School, said: “I had hoped the consideration stage for the Bill would be a bit quicker but the reality is that the likely opening date for the school is going to be August 2016, as long as it is passed by the end of the year.”

The updated timetable came as city chiefs revealed that building the school on a site at Baileyfield was even less likely after it emerged the council had not been named preferred bidder for the land.

Campaigners said this made it more important than ever to begin work in Portobello Park as soon as possible.

“It looks like the council is not going to be successful with Baileyfield,” said Mr Watters.

“Baileyfield was the least worse of a bunch of bad options. It just emphasises how important the private Bill is so that we can get work on the school started quickly and on what is the best site.”

But campaigners fighting the plans said the new timescales highlighted the inaccuracy of information provided previously by the council.

Portobello Park Action Group member Alison Connelly said: “In addition, it is disappointing that the council continue to refuse to provide adequate breakdown of the differentials in price between the various options, and that they have not properly progressed the twin-track approach they promised in 2012.

“As a result of the council’s refusal to go to court voluntarily in 2008 to determine their legal right to build on this inalienable common good land, the children of Portobello are still waiting for a new school, without any certainty as to when or where it will be built.”

But education bosses insisted the project was on track. Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “It’s right that the parliamentary committee scrutinise our proposals thoroughly and consider the views of all those involved.

“However, we are extremely heartened by the cross-party political support for the general principles of the Bill and we are determined to start work on delivering a fantastic school for Portobello as soon as it receives Royal Assent.

“Given the small delay there is an associated cost increase. However, the project remains well within our allocated budget and considerably less than the proposed alternatives.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com