Park group loses school challenge

Artist's Impression of the new Portobello High School.
Artist's Impression of the new Portobello High School.
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CAMPAIGNERS hoping to prevent the council building a £41.5 million school on a community park have had their petition refused.

Members of Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) had taken a legal challenge to the Court of Session to determine whether the local authority had the right to build a replacement Portobello High School on Portobello Park.

But Judge Lady Dorrian yesterday upheld the council’s appropriation of part of the park. Court proceedings have delayed the building project by at least six months.

PPAG had claimed that the council could not appropriate any part of the park for a school, as it was inalienable common good land. It had hoped to have a judge make a declaration to that effect in a judicial review or, failing that, for the council to seek authorisation from the court to proceed with its plans.

However, the council contested the action, arguing it should be dismissed because of the delay in bringing the proceedings.

Officials believed PPAG had left it too late to start court proceedings as the pressure group had known about the plans to build a replacement school on the park for several years.

In a written decision released yesterday, Lady Dorrian refused the PPAG petition.

She stated that, regardless of whether PPAG had delayed unnecessarily or not, she “would nevertheless have refused the petition on the merits”, concluding that a local authority does have the power to appropriate inalienable common good land.

Ros Sutherland, chair of PPAG, said the group was “disappointed” at the outcome and would consult with its legal team before making a decision as to whether it will take any further action or appeal.

City education leader Marilyne MacLaren said she was “absolutely delighted and relieved” with yesterday’s decision.

Sean Watters, a member of Portobello For A New School group, said: “We’re pleased but not surprised; the legal precedents clearly supported the council’s position. The delay that’s been caused is disappointing, and we appreciate that some people remain opposed, but the new school is very much needed and will bring great benefits to the community.

“Hopefully work can proceed without any more hold-ups.”

Cllr MacLaren added: “Officers will bring a report to council in April seeking permission to approve the contract to deliver the project.”