Plans for Muslim primary school next to Edinburgh prison see Stenhouse and Longstone residents raise concerns

Objections to plans for former Saughton Prison governor’s house
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Locals have objected to plans to convert the former Saughton Prison governor’s house into a Muslim primary school for up to 100 pupils, raising fears about road safety and congestion as well as the safety of pupils being so close to HMP Edinburgh.

Plans have been submitted by Edinburgh-based charity The Word Care Foundation to turn the old governor’s house at HMP Edinburgh, formerly Saughton Prison, into a Muslim primary school for 60-100 pupils to accommodate Edinburgh’s growing Muslim population.

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Dr Carol Marsh, who lives next to the old prison governor’s house, told the Evening News that local residents have major concerns about the application to turn the old prison governor’s house into a primary school. She said: "We are concerned about traffic, parking and the suitability of this building for a school. For a school of 60-100 kids you need at least an acre of space and this isn't big enough. It's tiny. There is no way the kids could get together for assembly or anything like that.

The former Saughton Prison governor's house, off Calder Road.The former Saughton Prison governor's house, off Calder Road.
The former Saughton Prison governor's house, off Calder Road.

"There's very little space outside as well. They plan to use car park space as a playground, but the prison cells overlook it. We are seriously concerned about the safety of the kids coming here. Why would anybody want to send their kids to the school next to the prison with cells overlooking it? We were really surprised that this was put forward as a school. I think the majority of local residents are against this. We are very concerned about traffic. It's the only access across the jewel carriageway. There will be a lot of cars coming and going when school starts and finishes. It's a major concern as we've already had a serious accident there this year.

"They are estimating that there will be 40 cars coming out of there at night. The junction can't take it. Every time you leave that junction you are taking your life in your own hands. It's dangerous as it is. I do welcome the plans for this Muslim primary school in Edinburgh, just not in that location, for safety reasons at that junction and concerns about the safety of the pupils."

Local councillor Ross McKenzie is aware of locals’ concerns about the plans. He said: “I’ve had contact from a number of constituents who are concerned about the impact that this school would have on traffic volume and road safety. The application itself concedes that ‘the catchment area is much wider than usual, attracting parents from all areas of the city’. This means that it will necessarily encourage private car use, which is contrary to the aims of national and local planning policy. This location is particularly ill-suited to an increase in traffic, as anyone who has sat at the junction with Calder Road can testify. I support the objections of my constituents on these grounds.”

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Dr Marsh added that residents in The Green at Longstone, just west of the old governor’s house, are also worried because when the Green was built, traffic calming measures were put in place to discourage drivers from using this as a short cut between Longstone and Calder Road. The worry is that some parents will use this short cut and also park in private parking spaces.

The road outside the school leading to the busy dual carriageway of Calder Road.The road outside the school leading to the busy dual carriageway of Calder Road.
The road outside the school leading to the busy dual carriageway of Calder Road.

Akeel Umar from The World Care Foundation said he has listened to locals’ concerns, but is adamant that this proposed school would face challenges just like any other school in Edinburgh. He said: “Schools are usually present within communities and the reality is that almost all of the schools face similar issues such as traffic build-up etc. The majority of the local residents near such schools indeed face an element of difficulty. This is a general trend. For wider benefits we all support such institutions. The proposed school is not different from any such institutions that already exist within our communities.

“We recognise the possible impact on the Calder Road. We are fully conscious of the local and the wider social responsibilities, in fact one of the core values for the school’s curriculum for its students is - making a positive impact in our communities- therefore we have undertaken comprehensive research including engaging professional consultants for general planning, noise impact and traffic management aspects.

"Robust green travel and traffic management plans have been prepared which include a number of initiatives such as pick-up and drop-off points away from school, a shuttle service and bus usage, in order to have an efficient traffic flow. The school overall will be a benefit to the local and wider community as its education plan emphasises universal values, community work and humanitarian efforts for the benefit of those in need locally.”