Portobello council hailed as role model for community action

Geoff Lynn
Geoff Lynn
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PORTOBELLO’S community council has been hailed for its work and held up as an example for similar groups.

Its efforts to keep locals informed of developments and carry out surveys to get their views won an “excellent” rating for engagement from the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC).

The centre said the group ensured the community had an opportunity to have their voice heard in decisions which directly impact on their lives.

The community council’s success was borne out of the controversy over plans for the new Portobello High School and where it should be sited.

Chairman Geoff Lynn said: “There was a lot of concern at that time and the community council came to prominence, but it was clear they were not really consulting.

“Twelve people in a room coming up with a letter is not the same as going to people and saying ‘What do you think?’

“We try to raise awareness of anything that might be of interest to the community. It’s about allowing the public to judge what’s important to them.

“We’ve tried to be a conduit for information and feedback rather than taking a particular position and campaigning for one result or another.”

He said people on the community council were delighted to receive such high praise.

The city council performed a U-turn earlier this year on plans to renew setts at Brighton Place at a cost of £1.2 million after a community council survey found a majority of residents preferred asphalt.

The two “case studies” of engagement which led to the “excellent” rating were the controversy over the Towerbank Primary catchment area and an application for housing and a supermarket at Baileyfield.

The SCDC report said community engagement by the group represented “an outstanding standard of performance and exemplifying excellent practice”. It said the group was “performing to a standard which is the model of its type” and recommended that it be replicated by community councils and other statutory and voluntary sector organisations across Scotland.

The excellent assessment, it concluded, was due to “the skills, knowledge, energy and enthusiasm of the PCC’s members and their commitment to making local decision-making and planning as transparent and accountable as possible.”