PORTOBELLO Park is the only suitable site to build a new high school, MSPs have been told as they start to hear evidence on the city’s bid to change the law to allow construction to go ahead.
MSPs sitting on the Holyrood committee which will recommend to the Scottish Parliament whether or not development should be allowed on the legally protected green space first heard evidence from education chiefs and their legal teams.
The Bill they are considering would reclassify the park as “alienable Common Good land” and opening it up for education-related development.
Billy MacIntyre, the council’s children and families head of resources, told committee members Siobhan McMahon (Labour), James Dornan (SNP), Alison McInnes (Liberal Democrat) and Fiona McLeod (SNP) that the decision to build in green space had “not been taken lightly” and was “by far the best option”.
He said: “The park is the only site of a suitable size that meets all of the requirements for a new school.”
The progress was welcomed by supporters of the park plan.
Sean Watters, chair of Portobello For A New School, said: “I’m confident but it’s now a question of whether the MSPs are convinced of the Bill’s merits.”
Members of Portobello Park Action Group, which opposes the project, stressed it could have negative consequences for green space across Scotland.
Stephen Hawkins said: “Councils are under such pressure to make use of their assets that they will take more and more open space, which invariably is park land.”
Committee members will now decide whether to recommend to parliament that the Bill should proceed, after which they will examine details of the proposed legislation.
Brownfield site rumours abound
AS MSPs met, rumours were swirling that a long-standing council bid for an alternative brownfield site for Portobello High had been successful.
Campaigners in favour of plans to build new premises in Portobello Park said in a Facebook post: “There are reports, as yet unconfirmed, that the council has been successful in its bid for the Baileyfield site. This is good news in that it offers a fallback position if the Private Bill is ultimately unsuccessful.
“However, as we know from the consultation, parents consider Baileyfield to be a very poor site for a school.”
But education chiefs said the process was still ongoing and no conclusion had been reached.