Anger as council admits mistakes over Portobello Pitz plans

Tempers soured at a packed Portobello Town Hall
Tempers soured at a packed Portobello Town Hall
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FURIOUS residents gave council officials a grilling last night over botched plans to sell-off a popular Portobello leisure complex.

About 150 packed into Portobello Town Hall to raise concerns over the sale and future use of the Pitz Westbank Street site.

They heard city council senior estates officer Graeme McGartland admit mistakes but assured councillors can still halt the sale.

Retired secretary Joan Anderson, 79, summed up much of the feeling in the room. “We have to fight for everything in Portobello,” she thundered, to raucous applause.

“We were assured that this would stay recreational - what other city would build flats along it’s promenade instead of gardens - it’s a Cinderellla town.”

The meeting was called by Portobello Community Council after their survey revealed more than half favoured “a more community-led sale.”

To gasps from the floor, Mr McGartland earlier told how 22 bids had been received by the council - ranging from up to 175 homes to large supermarkets or mixed residential and commercial.

“There’s a recognition we didn’t go about this in the right way in the first place,” said a frank Mr McGartland. “Additional consultation should’ve taken place.”

But he assured the popular Tumbles gymnastics and soft play centre would remain or be replaced whatever happens.

Community activist Diana Cairns asked what percentage of the sale Powerleague - operators of the five-a-side - will get.

“We’re getting into the realms of commercial transactions here but if we sell the whole site, we [the council] will get approximately between two-thirds and above,” said Mr McGartland.

This prompted structural engineer James Lewis, 36, to quiz why Powerleague will get rewarded for giving up a lease till 2088 they no longer want.

Mr McGartland said the council fear the firm will simply leave the site empty and take the £20,000-a-year hit in rent.

This prompted further mutterings and questions of whether the council should be “trusted” with the sale.

The meeting also heard from two groups proposing alternatives to the sale.

Save Porty Fives want to halt the sale in favour of keeping current facilities, while Action Porty want in-depth consultation to find out and deliver what the community want.

Mike Livesly of Save Porty Fives said it was wrong for the council to hold the Pitz hostage over funds needed for the proposed Meadowbank development.

In an impassioned address, he said: “To say if the land is not sold then Meadowbank will fail is an unfair thing to do to a community.

“It’s really heartening to see so many people here,” he added. “Let’s make sure we get something for the benefit of the people who live here, rather than people checking their bank balance.”

Tom Black, of Action Porty, called for thorough community consultation. “Then we can go back and say this is what we want, who will give us the best price?”