Appeal blow in school fight

PORTOBELLO Community Council has refused to ask a protest group to drop its appeal which is delaying the building of a new high school that has overwhelming support from residents.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 27th April 2012, 1:13 pm

More than 200 people packed into an emergency meeting of the community council last night, the vast majority of whom were in favour of the new school being built on Portobello Park.

Earlier this month, more than 70 backers of the new school signed a special petition requiring Portobello Community Council to convene the emergency meeting.

It followed Portobello Park Action Group’s (PPAG) decision to appeal a Court of Session judgement in favour of the plans, which could delay the new school by up to two years.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Community council chair, John Stewart, said it would not ask PPAG to drop its appeal during last night’s meeting at Portobello Community Centre, much to the anger of frustrated parents.

He said: “I, as chair, decided we could not ask PPAG to withdraw its appeal. There will therefore be no voting by the community council on this point.

“The community council cannot support the legitimate views of one group over another, they have to take a balanced view of the concerns of the whole community.”

Local resident Ewan Kenny hit back, saying: “You’re neutering the community council. You are disempowering a community body – is that a wise move? Is that a democracy?”

Residents at the meeting complained that statements made on the PPAG website were inaccurate and misleading, including claims that the golf course would be lost if the school was built on the park.

However, Mr Stewart said: “I personally, as chair, decided that we could discuss the content of the website but that we could not ask PPAG to either withdraw certain material from the website or withdraw the appeal. That’s my personal decision.”

The majority of questions raised during the heated meeting, which lasted two hours, were directed at PPAG – a member organisation of the community council – with several pleas made for the group to drop its appeal.

But Ros Sutherland, of PPAG, said: “Our message is clear and always has been. We support a new high school for Portobello. We can and should be able to retain valuable green space for current and future generations, and have a new school.”

Councillor Stephen Hawkins attracted jeers from the crowd when he claimed that the current Portobello High School “is now in better condition than it has been for years, because it’s had money spent on it”.

Earlier in the meeting, parent Abby Tindell said: “The site is there, the kids are waiting, it would appear that the community as a majority want this to happen – what are we waiting for?”