Neighbours oppose new gym plan at Keane school

An artist's impression of the new PE block at Liberton High. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the new PE block at Liberton High. Picture: contributed
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THE expansion of a school where a pupil was killed by a collapsing wall has ignited a row with neighbours.

A £2.5 million revamp of Liberton High’s main PE block has come under fire from nearby residents, who fear the enlarged building lies too close to their homes.

The blueprints have been unveiled eight months after Keane Wallis-Bennett, 12, died in the school when a changing room wall fell on top of her.

An outdoor classroom with a permanent memorial to the youngster will be created under the plans.

But neighbours say the extension – featuring a dance studio and gymnasium, as well as storage, general fitness and changing areas – will be sited just four metres from their property creating noise nuisance and privacy issues.

It is understood the owners of 16 houses in Greenend Grove and Greenend Gardens are poised to object to the plans, while community leaders – who are not opposed to extending the school in principle – have also met Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to air concerns.

Residents have accused city leaders of “steamrollering” the project through despite a groundswell of opposition to the plans. A spokeswoman for the group said there were deep concerns among residents, many of whom are elderly.

“I think the major feeling would be anger that there was not proper consultation and that this has just steamed ahead and been presented as a done deal,” she said.

“People are worried about the proximity – some have asked if there will be a security issue.”

City leaders insist they have made every effort to meet and listen to residents.

Councillor Norma Austin Hart, Labour member for Liberton and Gilmerton, said she had “every sympathy” with concerned residents but added: “We are trying to help a school that’s been traumatised by the death of Keane Wallis-Bennett and have made a commitment to replacing the old gym with a new facility.

“I feel that the extension of the new gym as proposed is the best compromise in the situation.

“We do not have an infinite amount of money.”

A council spokesman said: “Whilst we cannot change the location for the extension, in the final design which we have now submitted for planning approval we did make some changes to the design, such as reducing the eaves level on parts of the extension, as a direct result of [residents’] feedback, which we hope will address at least some of their concerns.”