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Sean Watters

And greenspace will remain.

The proposed school should only take up part of the existing playing fields, so public grass pitches can still be accomodated. The golfcourse will remain undisturbed and the walking amenity can still be provided with a path around it, allowing people to still enjoy the views out to the Forth.

Golfers will still golf, dog walkers will still walk their dogs round the golfcourse enjoying the views, and 1400 children a year will finally get a school with proper facilities, right at the heart of the community.

Sean Watters

And those reasons are;

The existing building needs relacing but the exsiting site is extremely small; too small to provide adequate facilities as well as compromising what facilities could be accomodated.

In addtition to that, rebuilding on site would require an extended decant, of more than 1400 pupils, for a period of around three years. Quite apart from the disruption to pupils and staff this would cost around £6M; that's not far of the cost of a complete new primary school.

Given the financial constraints the Council are operating under that makes little sense and, given the funds available, would mean around £6M less for the new school building.

Building a poorer quality building, less cost efectively, and with considerable disruption to pupils is not a particulalry sensible option.

Building the school on part of Portobello Park avoids all these.

Sean Watters

There's been nothing sly about it. Councils don't secretly build new secondary schools.

There's been an open and transparent conultation process. A number of people may disagree with the decision taken at the end of it, but the case for locating the school on part of Portobello Park is very strong compared to the alternatives.

self sufficiency

Your rights and voice is slowly being eroded away and you think the publics concerns are of no value... tsk tsk tsk. Even so you lot should have a say in how things are done. Gary Gowans is right, why destroy a perfectly good land for a football pitch and a school - damn this is insane. HAVING BIGGER SCHOOLS doesnt make better pupils, come on look at america and that doesnt seem to have worked, they should make do with what the land is able to provide whilst conserving park or greenland - if the people say no then it should be no. None of this flipping the situation to suite their needs and going about it in a sly fashion.

Bob Jefferson

Hilarious! The NIMBY group that Diana Cairns represents hopes to get some free publicity for their cause and support from what they assume to be a sympathetic audience and their arguments are taken apart for all to see. Did I say NIMBY? PPAG want to 'save' Portobello Park at the expense of thousands of local children for generations to come. These kids are currently taught in a 9 storey 1960s concrete tower, reminiscent of something from the bad old days of the Eastern Bloc. The lifts don't work. One of them in fact hasn't moved in years and is used as a store room. The heating has broken down on several occasions, forcing the school to close. Most of the time, the kids have to be taken elsewhere by bus for sports provision. Allowing for the return journey, they are usually lucky to get 20 minutes of their class. The school is officially acknowledged as being the most in need of replacement of all schools in Edinburgh and that is why the money to re-build it has been made available. This will be a school built with real money, not PPP/PFI. It will be a school built within a parkland setting at the very heart of the community it serves. Our children deserve no less.

Sean Watters

As to the issue of building a school on Common Good land, the Council's legal advice is that Court permission is not required. This is hardly unexpected given recent cases have established that permission from the courts to build schools on Common Good land is not required.

One such judgement can be found here;

http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2006CSOH48.html

"the petitioners wish to use the land for the construction of two schools on a shared site with shared facilities. Both areas of ground form part of the petitioners' common good."

North Lanarkshire wanted to build two schools on parks forming part of the Common Good and went to court to seek permission.

The Court said;

"...the use of land held for the purposes of the public park to construct a school and playing fields does not involve any "disposal" for the purposes of the subsection. In view of that decision, which is obviously binding on me, I consider that there is no "disposal" in the present cases. It follows that section 75(2) has no application. In these circumstances I refused the prayers of the petitions as unnecessary."

The Court held the petition was uneccessary; that permission from the courts was not required.

Since the land would still be owned by the Council, and used to the benefit of the community, the Court decided that the Council didn't even need to seek permission. The proposal was perfectly legal as far as the court was concerned.

And of course there are other examples of Local Authority schools being built on Common Good land, such Kingsland Primary School on Neidpath Grazings in Peebles, due for completion later this year.

So the suggestion within the article that the proposed redevelopment of the Portobello High School on Common Good land might establish a precedent is quite mistaken.

That precedent is already well established, and endorsed by the courts.

Arthur Negis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Negus

Negus with a "u"

Stephen McIntyre

Legally it has still to be established whether Portobello Park is in fact Common Good land, which belongs in the Common Good account. It is clear that the officials at COEC took the decsion to place the property in the account, solely for political reasons. After getting legal advice stating it would have no impact on the desure to build a school there.

Arthur Negis

Mrs Molehusband "The Dirty Trick's Brigade must have been working overtime, and please do tell us why members of PFANS were in direct contact with Council Officials? "

PFANS were probably in direct contact with council officials during or prior the consultation period. PPAG probably had contact too, if not then they probably not fully informed. Council officals are there to be contacted by any group or individual it is part of their remit. However, if one is the sort that cannot comprehend, see or understand what is being said, such contact can be counter productive.

For example; look at St John's Parent Council- they are on public record totally misrepresenting what was on offer for their school. And this was after numerous meeting with officals and months to study plans. Some people believe it was a genuine misunderstanding, whatever? Their contact with officals was counter productive for the groups they represent.

So, according to Diana Cairns PPAG need to raise £30k, considerably more than PCATS. How are they going to do that? Sneaking around the community masking the true purpose of the donations, is not working.

Sean Watters

And it may be worth remembering that PPAG, who now seem to be portraying themselves as tireless defenders of greenspace, are on record as having suggested the Jewel Park, Bingham Park and greenbelt land at Brunstane as reasonable locations for Portobello High School, and that Figgate Park be considered for a new St John's Primary School.

Which doesn't seem to be an entirely consistent message.

Funny that.

Sean Watters

And building the school on part of the park doesn't mean that locals are denied access to green space.

There should still be public grass pitches for use outside school hours, which is after all when pitches tend to be used by the public.

And with the woodland retained locals can still go for a pleasant walk around the golf course,with or without a dog, and look out towards the Forth or at the golfers playing a round.

As a solution the positives far outweigh the negatives, certainly in comparison to the alternatives of which there are precious few.

Sean Watters

Whilst building on the park isn't the ideal situation, it's better than any of the alternatives. Most alternatives suggested have been too small, badly located, not in council ownership, or completely unfeasible. Frequently they've been all four.

Re-building on-site certainle isn't desirable. The site's too small to deliver appropriate facilites and the necessary decant, costing several million pounds, would be both extremely disruptive and, as things stand, prohibitvely expensive. Even if you did go ahead with a redevelopment on site you'd still face the constraint of a site that's fundamentally too small. Just to clarify;

The statutory recommended minimum site size for a school the size of PHS is 6.8Ha.

The consultation considered 4.5Ha as a realistic optimum.

The combined existing PHS & St John's site would be 3.5Ha.

The existing PHS site is only 2.9Ha.

That's a major reason why redeveloping on part of Portobello Park is much preferred. As an option it should deliver better facilities, at much lower cost and with less disruption than the only real alternative.

Sean Watters

"And neither do PFANS!"

What I said was;

"There clearly is a body of opinion opposed to the new school. And there is a body of opinion that is supportive. To suggest that either group is representative of 'the community' would be simply misleading."

I never suggested PFANS represented 'the community'.

In fact I explicitly said any such claim would be misleading.

So your riposte make no sense at all.

The personal attacks, insinuations and snide remarks from PPAG supporters are unfortunate but perhaps unexpected. What suprises me is the lack of basic reading comprehension skills.

Mrs Molehusband

"How long one has lived in portobello is irrelevant on the High school issue". If it was, "I guess i would be more relevant than most"
Correct, see intro.

"The provision of a new PHS is relevant to every resident and council tax payer in Edinburgh. And there has been unanimous support from twp elected administrations"

Eh sorry no its not,the entire process was a stitch up from the outset,Mr Molehusband took great delight in clarifying this 'sham'online, by all accounts Question A was thrown in to appease opposition to the proposals.
The Dirty Trick's Brigade must have been working overtime, and please do
tell us why members of PFANS were in direct contact with Council Officials? Evidence exists they were receiving information regarding PP
whereas other Groups were left in the dark,suppose that's democracy Labour style.

"It is totally consistent that Sean comes under personal attack from an anonymous name caller. Like Sean says you won't find the supporters of a new school claiming to speak for the majority of the community. You may find them stating that it is what the city wants unanimously"

Do They ? and just how did you come to this conclusion may I enquire?



Sean Posted - Five years actually.

"And what I said was that they don't represent the community as a whole. Which they don't."

And neither do PFANS!

Sean Watters

Whilst building on the park isn't the ideal situation, it's better than any of the alternatives.

The proposed school will leave the golf-course untouched and public pitches remaining. And it's not as if the park is that well loved. The pitches at the moment are pretty poor and not used much. The site's principally used by dog walkers.

Depending on how the school is configured it's not obvious why that amenity shouldn't continue. If the woodland buffering the golf course and pitches was retained and maybe landscaped a little, there could still be a perfectly pleasant path round the perimeter of the golf course.

Any loss of amenity would be minimal, certainly in comparison to the benefits of locating the school on an adequate site.

Golfers can stil golf, dog walkers can walk their dog round the golfcourse enjoying the views, and 1400 children a year get a school with proper facilities.

What reasonable person would object?

Arthur Negis

How long one has lived in portobello is irrelevant on the High school issue. If it was, I guess i would be more relevant than most. The provision of a new PHS is relevant to every resident and council tax payer in Edinburgh. And there has been unanimous support from twp elected administrations.

It is totally consistent that Sean comes under personal attack from an anonymous name caller. Like Sean says you won't find the supporters of a new school claiming to speak for the majority of the community. You may find them stating that it is what the city wants- unanimously.

Sean Watters

Five years actually.

And what I said was that they don't represent the community as a whole. Which they don't.


There clearly is a body of opinion opposed to the new school. And there is a body of opinion that is supportive. To suggest that either group is representative of 'the community' would be simply misleading.

As to my own knowledge and experience, ten years working as an architect, principally in the education sector, affords some insight into some of the issues surrounding the provision of the new school.

As to the Common Good issue, the Council recieved legal advice that the Park was likely to be Common Good. Just as they received legal advice that Court permission was not necessary to build a school on the site.

I take it you are consistent and believe that no question remains as to either issue?

Mrs Molehusband

Sean posted "Some residents in Portobello may be seeking legal action against a new high school, but they hardly represent the community as a whole"

Sean, You have lived in Portobello for five minutes, yet YOU KNOW that
the group/citizens of Portobello (who have lived here most of their lives)and who are quite rightly proposing Legal Action don't represent the Community!!

I also think you are misleading people when you write "Building on part of Portobello Park however, would not only offer by far the best solution in terms of a new school, but would avoid additional expense and disruption"

WRONG, Have you recently acquired a degree in Geotechnical Engineeing/Ground Conditions/Piling Techniques (accompanied by your never ending list of) "I know everything about everything" ?
You have no concept of Geotechnical engineering,or the ramifications that can and may well ensue due to the ground conditions on Portobello Park.

Sadly you also fail to advise the readers, that you are indeed a part of a small clique, hellbent on building a School on Portobello Park, with no regard for others who have different views from your own.

FYI Sean, there is no question over Common Good Status for Portobello Park, COEC have acknowledged Common Good status, although it took them 2 years to do so.


Stephen McIntyre

The journalism is shoddy, What has a school that has not yet been subject to a planning application, got to do with a waste incinerator, power station, huge housing developments and planning democracy?

Journalist Rob Edwards writes-
"Huge industrial plants and other controversial schemes are being bulldozed through by developers, depriving communities of their rights, polluting their environment and threatening their health. This is because the Scottish government has fast-tracked major developments"

Erm,.... its a school we are talking about here Rob and nothing in your statement applies to that school.
There will be builders not developers and they will not be involved until planning is granted so no bulldozing planning applications. Rather than denying, the community's statutory rights to education is being fulfilled> There will be less pollution from the new school. Health will likely see a substantial improvement due to the proviosn of sports facilities and siting a school in a park location. What's more the Scottish Government have not fast-tracked the project. Although they have ratified the community wide statutory consultation process conducted by Edinburgh City Council.

So that's nil out of 5 Rob. Maybe you should do more thinking and investigation rather than just googling 'action groups'.

Sean Watters

Just to demonstrate that people should be wary about taking statements from PPAG supporters at face value. if you look at the following website...

http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/scottishschoolsonline/schools/portobellohighschooledinburghcity.asp

...you'll see that, as of September 2007, the Portobello High School roll was 1,436.

So the claim that the "current school also manages to cater for 1200 pupils" is misleading, although entirely consistent with the regard for factual accuracy usually displayed by PPAG supporters.

Sean Watters

Gary Gowans is incorrect. The Portobello High School roll is currently around 1450, with over 1200 from within catchment. The number of catchemnt pupils is also expected to rise given the increase in pupil numbers at the feeder primaries.

As to options for replacing the school, rebuilding on site is indeed possible but has considerable shortcomings; it is less than half the statutory minimum size so the resulting facilities will be compromised,; it would require decanting over 1400 children for around 3 years; it would incur considerable additional costs.

Whilst building on part of Portobello Park is not ideal it is a far better option both in terms of school facilities, community facilities and cost.

R. Molehusband

I would agree that PPAG appears to represent a minority view, certainly within Portobello & Duddingston. Further, they are increasingly being seen within the community as little more than a bunch of NIMBYs.

For example, it is very hard to take PPAG's moral defence of Edinburgh's green spaces seriously when at least one of their key members supports the building of the new St.Johns primary on the green space of Figgate Park.

Of course the use of part of Portobello Park as a site for the new school is regrettable, but it is the only viable option, and the least of several evils.

Gary Gowans

Hmm - interesting comment from Sean. Rubbish of course, but interesting.
A very large number of residents in Portobello have, on several occasions indicated their displeasure at the threat to Portobello Park. Considerably more than have backed it's destruction.
Until quite recently the council were prohibited by law from building on the Park (As part of the original contract conditions). A change in the law has granted them a loop-hole that they are determined to benefit from (by destroying the Park and selling the existing school site for housing). [Oddly enough, prior to this law change, the council planned to rebuild on site - something they now claim is 'impossible'!]
The main reason they won't rebuild on site is that they now insist the school has it's own on-site football pitches? No-one can quite indicate why this is so vital? Football pitches are available... on the Park! Or at Cavalry Park near Holyrood (which doesn't use the grass pitches anyway!)
The existing site has a large area of unused tarmac (which were tennis courts, never used - and part of which is now a fenced-off artificial playing surface) as well as a huge car park.
The current school also manages to cater for 1200 pupils (of which 25% come from outside the catchment area) but the new school is intended for 1400 pupils! (With no justification other than 'they can').
The Council's admitted inability to manage a decant is hardly an excuse for rejecting that proposal (if it were actually necessary).
In any case... this article is about how the council ride rough-shod over the view of the community. And that is very much the case here. Support for destroying the park has always been minimal - largely people with children about to go to school. Support for the park extends well beyond those who live in it's immediate area to those throughout Portobello, Edinburgh and beyond. The council initially tried to sneak this whole proposal in by the 'back door' and were dramatically 'caught out'. Since then they have simply manipulated the situation to suit their initial intention.
The views of the public are of no concern.

Sean Watters

Some residents in Portobello may be seeking legal action against a new high school, but they hardly represent the community as a whole.

The existing school is in urgent need of replacement and there is a dearth of viable sites. The existing site is less than half the statutory minimum recommended for a school its size so rebuilding on site, with inevitable compromises on designand accomodation, would aslo require an extended decant lasting several years and costing several million pounds.

Building on part of Portobello Park however, would not only offer by far the best solution in terms of a new school, but would avoid that additional expense and disruption. And recent legal precedent supprot the council view that Common Good status, itself yet to be confirmed by a court, is no bar to the development of Local Authority schools.

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