Portobello High School green space concepts unveiled

Portobello High School. File picture: Jane Barlow

Portobello High School. File picture: Jane Barlow

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AN outdoor classroom, community orchard and skate park are among ambitious ideas being floated for new parkland on the site of the current Portobello High School.

Work on the £1 million green space – which will take place once the current high school has been demolished – is set to start in summer 2018.

And now three separate proposals have been unveiled detailing what the new park could look like, with the public asked to choose their favourite.

The first design, dubbed “A Place for Adventure and Natural Play”, would include a Scots pine urban forest, wild flower meadow and “boulder play area”.

The second, called “A Place to Grow Together”, would see a community and fruiting orchard, outdoor classroom and potting shed, and a “willow coppice plantation and maze”.

Meanwhile, a third option, titled “A Place to Interact with Art”, would mix woodland, interactive play areas and an outdoor teaching facility.

This park is going to be here for decades and it’s not going to be used for housing. It will become part of St John’s, but I think what’s getting young people excited right now is the possibility of a skate park.

Alex Lunn

All three schemes share similar features – and bosses insist that whatever option is chosen, local schoolchildren will be at the heart of the project.

Councillor Alex Lunn, convener of the Craigentinny and Duddingston Neighbourhood Partnership – which will make the final decision based on residents’ votes at its next meeting on March 17 – said the most important thing was making sure the neighbouring St John’s RC Primary School “gets what it needs in terms of space”.

He said: “This park is going to be here for decades and it’s not going to be used for housing. It will become part of St John’s, but I think what’s getting young people excited right now is the possibility of a skate park.”

He added: “The new park is for the community and designed by the community. Participation from residents is key to success.”

The brand new, £41m Portobello High – which is nearing completion at Portobello Park following years of delays – is expected to take its first pupils later this year, with the old building then scheduled for demolition.

The decision to build the school on protected parkland caused uproar in the local community when it was approved five years ago, with city leaders eventually forced to take a Private Bill through the Scottish Parliament to see their plans realised.

Meanwhile, current blueprints will also see St John’s Primary demolished and replaced with a modern school building next to the new park.

As well as helping to choose the design for the green space, residents can vote on whether the final park should be called St John’s or Treverlen – the original name for Duddingston, meaning “settlement by the lake of reeds”.

The new designs have been put on display at Piershill, Portobello and Craigmillar libraries, as well as Northfield and Craigentinny community centres and Restalrig Hub. Locals can also view and vote for the plans online until February 29.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, environment leader, said: “We want to ensure the new park in Portobello becomes an asset to the area and represents what residents want.

“I’d urge as many people as possible in Craigentinny and Duddingston to take part in the consultation by February 29 and share their views about their preferred design and name for their new park.

“Their contributions will play a vital role in the final decision in March and will help us create a green space for all of the community to enjoy.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com