Portobello High: Aldi buys possible school site

Sean Watters, chair of Portobello For A New School (PFANS). Picture: Julie Bull
Sean Watters, chair of Portobello For A New School (PFANS). Picture: Julie Bull
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A GERMAN supermarket chain and housing developers have bought a brownfield site once touted as a possible location for a replacement Portobello High School.

The former ScottishPower site at Baileyfield in the east of the city looks set to accommodate dozens of houses and a discount food store following its sale to Cruden Property Developments and Aldi.

Aldi’s plans also come after compatriot firm Lidl was snubbed by city bosses over proposals to open a store close to Seafield Junction.

The successful purchase of Baileyfield marks the latest twist in the long history of the vacant brownfield site, previously earmarked for developments as diverse as an art gallery, health centre and a new home for the Royal British Legion.

A spokesman for the buyers said: “I can confirm that Cruden Property Developments together with Aldi Stores have jointly acquired the Baileyfield site and will be bringing forward detailed plans for consultation with the Portobello community.”

The sale comes as MSPs continue scrutiny of a private Bill tabled by city leaders which is aimed at opening the park for education-related development. Education chiefs had planned to buy the site as a fall-back in case their bid to build a school on legally protected land in Portobello Park proved unsuccessful.

Supporters of plans to build a replacement school in Portobello Park say the Cruden-Aldi sale underlines the significance of the council’s private Bill.

Sean Watters, chair of Portobello For A New School (PFANS), said: “Baileyfield is a long way from being the best site – the location, the size are not great. But it at least offered us an option. If that has been removed then it makes the private Bill even more important.”

Disappointed protesters fighting the proposals said they would not give up.

Alison Connelly, spokeswoman for Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG), said: “Whilst we believe that Baileyfield would have provided an excellent location for the school, and note the council’s claim that the land is contaminated has not been a deterrent to a housebuilder, we still do not accept Portobello Park as the only option for the new school because there is still the alternative of the existing school site, which the council accepted back in 2003 could accommodate the new school.”

But education chiefs said a phased rebuild at the current site was highly unlikely.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “It would cost an estimated £13.4 million more than the build on Portobello Park and wouldn’t be ready until approximately October 2020.”