Council chiefs recommend Baileyfield as back-up plan if Portobello High bid fails

Portobello High School closed to some pupils due to flooding within the tower block. Picture: Julie Bull
Portobello High School closed to some pupils due to flooding within the tower block. Picture: Julie Bull
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COUNCIL chiefs have recommended a bid is placed to purchase the former Scottish Power site at Baileyfield to provide a back-up plan should fresh attempts to build a new Portobello High School on a community park be unsuccessful.

Council officers have also advised that Portobello Park’s current status as “inalienable common good” land should not be questioned after receiving legal advice which stated that any attempt to question the status of the land would most likely be pointless and result in no change in the classification.

A report will be presented to full council next Thursday which will ask councillors to greenlight the start of a consultation on the introduction of a Private Bill to the Scottish Parliament early next year to allow the school to be built on the park.

Council leader Andrew Burns and the city’s education leader Paul Godzik met with Local Government Minister Derek Mackay earlier this week and agreed that presenting a Private Bill to Parliament should be focused on.

The report also recommends that a bid is placed for the former Scottish Power site at Baileyfield which would act as one of the fall-back options should building the school on the park not be possible.

A full statutory consultation will be carried out next year to decide whether the Baileyfield site or rebuilding on the current school site would be the preferable option should it prove impossible to build the new school on Portobello Park.

Councillor Godzik said: “We’ve been clear we want to build on the park and this report shows that this makes sense both in terms of cost, time and taking into consideration the quality of school we want to build.

“We believe, along with the Scottish Government, that a Private Bill, promoted by us and shaped around the specific needs of the Portobello community, presents the best opportunity for us to demonstrate to the Scottish Parliament why it should support measures which would enable us to build a school to be proud of in Portobello Park.

“Portobello Park is the best option, bar none, and we will be working with the community in the coming months to explain the options and seek their views. We firmly believe that Portobello Park has the support of the vast majority of people in the area.”

MSP Derek Mackay added: “It is clear that a new school for the Portobello community needs to be built urgently. We have had a very constructive first meeting with the council and we will continue to work with colleagues there.”

The Evening News previously revealed that the city council was considering paying more than £60,000 to firmly establish whether or not the park is common good land, as it continues to fight for a new school to be built there.

Education chiefs’ plans to build a new Portobello High School on the park were scuppered when the Court of Session upheld an appeal by Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) in September, which ruled that the council could not build there as it is common good land.

Councillors at next week’s full council meeting will be asked to approve officers’ recommendations that the status of the land is not questioned.