Edinburgh schools: Decision day looms on plan for new Kirkliston High School on leisure centre site

Majority of residents in consultation did not back proposals
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Councillors are set to make a final decision this week on proposals to tear down Kirkliston Leisure Centre and build a new high school on the site. 

The report from the formal consultation recommends that the council approves the plans, despite acknowledging that “the significant majority of those responding to the consultation from Kirkliston did not support the proposals”.

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Edinburgh Council has long talked of constructing a new high school in response to Kirkliston’s rapidly growing population. Currently, the small town only has a nursery and primary school, meaning children must transfer to Queensferry High School – expected to exceed capacity by 2025.

After plans for a West Edinburgh high school fell through and releasing greenbelt land proved difficult, the council is now presenting Kirkliston Leisure Centre as the only feasible option due to it already being council-owned.

Throughout the consultation, residents expressed worries about the use of the leisure centre site due to its small size, proximity to the motorway, pollution problems, potential to increase traffic, and the loss of sports facilities and public green space.

In response to anger from residents about the location, the council has asserted that members of the community suggested the use of the leisure centre site in a January 2023 survey. But, in this informal engagement, only 20 people commented on where the school could be situated. People in Kirkliston have voiced concerns that last year’s engagement process was “all for show” and the use of the council-owned leisure centre site has always been a “done deal”.

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Resident Henryk Zukowski, 69, used his skills as a chartered surveyor to look deeper into the proposals. At a public meeting held in October, he revealed that in 2019 the council applied to change the leisure centre’s land burdens.

The land was sold to the council by the Marquess of Linlithgow in 1994 on the condition that it could only be used for open space and recreational purposes. In 2019 the council discharged this condition which would have prevented a high school from being built and placed an advertisement in the West Lothian Courier, a neighbouring council areas’ newspaper, giving readers a fortnight to object.

Mr Zukowski said: “The council told me they couldn’t find the contact details for the Marquess to make him aware of the application,” . “It took me just minutes to find an email address and phone number online, and the Marquess told me he would have objected if he had known.”

Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang said: “It is clear that people still want a new school for Kirkliston and don’t believe that simply extending the already large Queensferry High School is a good alternative. However, the results of this latest consultation show that people have serious concerns about council officers’ plans for using the leisure centre site. “Given all the other land around Kirkliston is designated greenbelt, there are no easy answers. However, as local councillors, we’ll be looking carefully at what courses of action are available before making a decision on 8 February.” Education convener Joan Griffiths said: “There is a pressing need to provide a sustainable, long-term solution for secondary school pupils from Kirkliston as pressure on spaces increases at Queensferry High School due to new housing.

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“We carried out an informal consultation in June last year which informed our approach to the recent statutory public consultation which proposed a new secondary school on the site of the current Kirkliston Leisure Centre. Councillors will now discuss the outcome of the statutory consultation in detail at the council meeting next week.”