A LEGAL challenge to the new Portobello High School could be launched if planning chiefs give the development the green light later this month. A residents’ association claims the council is driving through plans to develop the school on Portobello Park despite flawed transport and traffic safety reports, inadequate public consultation and a lack of consistency.
The Portobello Park Action
Group says the council has no legal right to develop on the park, which they claim is common good land and bequeathed to the people of the town.
One member of the group, Ian Ross, is a chartered civil engineer who has professionally produced traffic reports for other developments and has worked for the Scottish Government.
He said: “Today planning committee councillors are due to make a site visit.
“The visit should have taken place prior to a meeting scheduled for February 9.
“That was postponed, resulting in the site visit during a school holiday week in mid-afternoon.
“Early morning traffic queues during term-time can extend for 400 yards. In that respect, the visit is pointless,” he said.
He also claimed that the traffic consultant who presented the official transport study for the site was unfamiliar with the area. “His report seemed to be based on the assumption that the best way from Milton Road to Portobello was going around the site via a major junction and Harry Lauder Road, which any local realises is nonsense.
“The traffic plan is potentially dangerous and poses a risk to schoolchildren and other road users.”
Chair of the group, Roz Sutherland, said of the 15 alternative sites originally identified, at least two were dismissed because they would incur the loss of green space and one would also mean the loss of Millennium tree planting – both of which apply to Portobello Park.
“There is no consistency. But what people find most frustrating and disappointing is that we have had no chance to be heard. We were told the initial ‘consultation’ was educational, and it wasn’t appropriate for us to discuss choice of site at that stage and the opportunity would come later. But at the next stage we were told it was too late because the decision had been made.
“In 2006, we were promised the council would replace the open space somewhere else by way of compensation. In March 2010, they said there would be no replacement.
“If the decision is nodded through on February 23, our legal advice is that we have grounds to force the council to seek permission of the court to develop on this site. The council says they don’t need to.
We also feel the decision should pass up to the Scottish Government, or at least be taken by the full council.”
A council education spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate to comment in detail ahead of the committee meeting next week. An extensive pre-planning consultation took place before the application was submitted and we believe that any issues raised during this process have been fully addressed.”
17 February 2011