Stray golf ball warning for Portobello pupils

Golfers fear the course will be badly affected by the new school building. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Golfers fear the course will be badly affected by the new school building. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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PUPILS attending a replacement Portobello High could be whacked by stray golf balls, protesters opposed to construction plans have claimed.

Golfers also fear pupils will trample over their fairways and vandalise their course.

But the protests – heard by MSPs scrutinising the council’s Private Bill to build the new school on Portobello Park – have been dismissed by education chiefs who say fences will be built to stop stray balls from injuring children.

Despite this, Maureen Wood, a senior member of Portobello Ladies’ Golf Club, told politicians: “We fear pupils will be injured by stray balls and that there will be increased vandalism on the course.

“With a school of 1400 pupils adjacent to the course, there will be an increased risk of pupils roaming through the course, especially during dinner time and at the end of the day.

“The council’s failure to recognise even a possibility of this happening is symptomatic of how it has ignored anything that does not fit in with its plans.”

Her fears were echoed by fellow member Oula Jones, who slammed the council’s proposals to build a new high school on legally protected land.

She accused the council of “living in cloud cuckoo land” if it believed the new school regime would have “control over the pupils after they leave the premises”.

But education chiefs said the issues raised had been examined thoroughly at the planning stage and that their proposals included a range of measures, such as fencing and planting, to ensure the safety of pupils and staff.

The arguments were presented to MSPs Siobhan McMahon, James Dornan, Alison McInnes and Fiona McLeod, who are scrutinising the Bill tabled by the city council aimed at altering the park’s legal status so it can be opened up for school-related development.

Ms Jones and Ms Wood outlined a series of objections to the four MSPs as part of their detailed consideration of the council’s Portobello Park Private Bill.

As well as danger of injury to pupils and fears over vandalism, they said building a high school in the park would disturb underground watercourses and create a “substantial” flooding risk at the golf course.

The problems would make golfers less keen to play at Portobello and lead to a crippling loss of income which could threaten the course’s viability, they added.

Ms Jones said: “The probable increase in flooding will diminish our enjoyment of play to the extent that golfers will choose other courses. This will lend weight to arguments to close the course.”

Education leaders said the issues had been considered in depth, adding that building the school next door could even boost future growth at the course.

Presenting for the council, Iain Strachan said: “On the suggestion that the pupils will be injured by stray balls, we are very confident in the proposed mitigation measures that we have put forward.

“We believe the location next to the school could create some specialism within the school around golf. Surely there is fantastic potential to introduce youngsters to the game.”