Porty school activists demand council meet

Pro-school activists put up posters last night
Pro-school activists put up posters last night
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PORTOBELLO High School campaigners have demanded an emergency meeting of the community council in a bid to halt opposition to the project.

More than 70 residents have signed a special petition requiring Portobello Community Council, under the terms of its constitution, to convene an emergency meeting in 14 days.

It follows Portobello Park Action Group’s (PPAG) decision to appeal a Court of Session judgement, which could delay the new Portobello High School by up to two years. The group is opposed to the new school being built on Portobello Park.

The petition was started by Sean Watters, chair of Portobello for a New School (PFANS) and a member of the community council. Mr Watters said: “The PPAG appeal could delay the opening of the new school by a further two years and force the council to re- tender the contract, increasing the costs by millions of pounds.

“Our children deserve a school that’s fit for the 21st century, they’ve already waited far too long. We call on PPAG to act in the wider interest of the community, the city and our young people, and drop this appeal.”

As well as requesting the meeting to urge PPAG – a member organisation of the community council – to drop the appeal, frustrated parents and residents also want it to stop promoting what they claim are “factual misrepresentations”.

Mr Watters added: “The emergency meeting of the community council is now demanded by residents, who are angry that PPAG continues to promote factual misrepresentations in public fundraising materials, including claims made that if a school is built on ground at Portobello Park, ‘housing will be built on the whole area’ of the park.”

However, Lib Dem councillor for Portobello/Craigmillar, Stephen Hawkins, said: “[PPAG] are welcome to choose every legal option open to them to pursue their point of view.”

Mr Watters said he expects around 250 to 300 members of the public to attend the meeting.

Meanwhile, more than 1100 people have also signed a separate petition on Facebook calling on PPAG to drop its appeal.

PFANS erected giant posters in the window of a disused shop on Portobello High Street last night with messages including “1400 Porty Kids Deserve Better, Build Our School Now”.

Parent Bob Jefferson, who set up the Facebook petition, said: “There’s a feeling that the community council is not representing the views of the community.”

The special petition, signed by 75 residents, was handed to Nick Stroud, co-secretary of Portobello Community Council, and e-mailed to other community council members.

John Stewart, chair of Portobello Community Council, said it would organise the meeting, which under the terms of its constitution would have to take place between April 16 and 20.

Classroom politics

January 2006: City council announces plans to rebuild Portobello High and St John’s RC Primary on Portobello Golf Course.

May-September 2006: Feasibility study considers 15 possible sites.

December 2006: Portobello Park is preferred site.

December 2008: Legal opinion states council does not require court permission to appropriate land at Portobello Park.

Autumn 2010: Planning application lodged. Public able to comment.

February 2011: Planning approval for school granted.

July 2011: Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) petition lodged with Court of Session stating park site is common good land.

March 2012: Judge Lady Dorrian upholds the council’s appropriation of land. PPAG announces it will appeal.

April 2012: Parents and residents sign a special petition calling for an emergency meeting of Portobello Community Council.