Portobello Park and government interference with our common rights

Individual councils may try to use their legal muscle to overturn decisions on Common Good by the Court of Session in favour of citizens’ groups.

So why is parliament getting involved with local issues involving the
Common Good Fund, trying to make a special case for a school in a park?

The case of Porty

“Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) has been fighting for seven years to stop the City of Edinburgh Council from building on Portobello Park, a much loved and well-used local public park.
The Council wants to build a new high school on the Park and while PPAG strongly supports the new school, particularly as there are many parents, children and grandparents among its supporters, we believe the school does not need to be built on a public park. The Council has identified alternative sites where it could be built, without loss of open space.

The Park is inalienable common good land and belongs to ALL people for ALL time . In September 2012, PPAG won a historic legal battle when the Court of Session ruled that it was ILLEGAL to build on the Park. The Council is still trying to pursue building on the Park by introducing a Private Bill of Parliament to try and overturn the judgement. The outcome of the Bill is by no means certain and this high risk strategy could delay the new school for many years whilst incurring additional costs.

The Council says the Bill will only affect Portobello Park but, if successful, it would set an unwelcome precedent that could be used by local authorities across Scotland to take other common good land. People across Scotland should be concerned about this.” Source: Website: http://www.portygreenkeepers.org.uk/

Where do the children play

Concerning common good land: I think it is useful to take schools and kids waving banners out of the equation and just think about “building” or “concrete” over green space. Glasgow City Council who over the years could teach most councils a thing or two around ideas for covering green space with concrete and using cheering school children to disguise land grabs and development, (Commonwealth Games) while shutting community centres (Accord) and kicking folk out of their houses (Jaconelli).

Edinburgh folk should take note.

Given the neoliberal policy making that is sweeping through councils up and down the country it would seem naive and hard to believe that changing the classification of common good to accommodate this particular bit of green space (Porty Park) would not affect the rest. Are you kidding. The cracks in the commons dike are widening and if it breaks, developers will go through our green space like a dose of salts. Once building projects get hold in out parks and green space, no matter what they are used for, we will never get our space back again. The kids who go to the schools in our parks, will grow into the parents who will protest for the protection of their own kids green space. Because by then the present equation put forward for this school will be repeated, Kids might not escape to the park from school, because the park may very well be the school. Or maybe something worse than a school if it gets closed to accommodate other “future” council developments. (Ones that make profits)

Smell the coffee Edinburgh

It is kind of harder to challenge the idea of a school on a green site than a supermarket or something. People like schools in nice spaces, particularly if their kids are going to them. I agree, but we should be creating more green space for schools not using prime space that we will never get back.

In Glasgow the city council built a school in the middle of Ruchhill public park. Plans to build a Musical Therapy Centre in the same park where knocked back. (the council offered the space to the therapy centre). This is an area of Glasgow with the most derelict land in the city. On another occasion three or four local schools were closed and a school was built in Kelvingrove park to take all of the pupils. There are plans to build a hospice in Belahouston park. Part of Queens park was used to build the Victoria hospital extension. About a third of Richmond park in the east of the city has had flats built on it, something the council swore they would never do. Other councils like West Dunbartonshire are getting in on the act recommending parks to build schools. If the law is bent to accommodate Porty park for commercial use. (what happens if schools are privatised?) it will set a precedence for the rest. Not only the parents whose kids will attend the school will be happy, but developers all over the place will be rubbing their hands.

Glasgow city council started off by supporting plans for Kelvingrove bandstand to be turned into a pub because they let it rot. Then after a 21 year campaign to re open the bandstand it is now being refurbished in a rush not to make up for the disgraceful delay, but in time for the commonwealth games. The city council also backed plans for a night club in the cities Botanic Gardens, Go Ape adventure playground to be planted in the woods in Pollock Estate, thats the Maxwell gift to the city, one of the few wild places left in the city and (which the council also allowed a motorway to run through). Both these things were stopped only after massive campaigns.

The protection of the commons is not about what you can get for your kids but what we can give all of our kids. It is about trust and making some sacrifice for the good of all. The city council in Glasgow are doing there best to destroy what is left of the common good fund of the city. They started off with in-your-face developments, nightclubs, pubs, and they are now doing there best to impregnating each cultural event in our parks with tons of burger stalls. (With the amount of fairground attractions and retail outlets it is sometimes difficult to notice the actual event.) The point that is pertinent to Edinburgh, is Glasgow City Council, learned it is much easier to take the commons and green space with touchy-feely-things like schools, hospitals and therapy centres, rather than night clubs and expensive adventure playgrounds. Edinburgh council must be green with envy, but Im sure they are catching up. Edinburgh folk have been inspirational in their defence of the Common Good. I have attended meetings in Edinburgh, a few years back with 100 plus people at them, when I could hardly attract half a dozen in Glasgow, to discuss the commons. Now it is crucial that the debate is widened and solidarity is created around the country. The Portobello park campaign is the wee boy with his finger in the dike. If it is removed by government legislation and disregard for the law, all of our Common Good will start sailing down the river.

Maybe the commons should be on the school curriculum everywhere and let kids decide the future of their green space. Porty kids do deserve better. Kids usually make better informed judgments on these things if they are allowed to view the situation without the political expediency, and what could be the practical, but narrow interests of their parents.

Edinburgh learned a lesson from Glasgow when it rejected the stock transfer of council houses. It can learn again from Stephen Purcel’s privatisation of the Common Good Fund of our city. Education for the twenty first century needs to start looking at ideas of restoring the commons which are being degraded to the values of banks. It is a sad irony that the institutions that should be teaching the principals and values of the commons are becoming part of a new ruse for destroying them.

You may not be local to Portobello Park, but you can still make your feelings heard. The Common Good  should be protected everywhere.

Here is a ample letter supplied by subscriber:

Non-Government Bills Unit
The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

Dear Sir/Madam
City of Edinburgh Council (Portobello Park) Bill
I wish to record an objection to the above bill.

I am not a resident of the area and there is no impact to me personally by this proposal. However I am concerned about the precedent such a Bill, if enacted, would create as it challenges the established rights under Common Good.

In September 2012 the Inner House of the Court of Session decided the Council could not appropriate the Park due to its status as inalienable common good land. The law has spoken and ruled that building on the Park is illegal and this ruling should be respected.

If local authorities are allowed to challenge individual decisions of the courts by introduction of legislation this could threaten other common good land and open spaces since local authorities could cite the Portobello bill as a precedent.

This could put common good land and other assets across Scotland at risk.

It is questionable as to whether the parliament should be getting involved in local issues such as the provision of a new school.

Yours sincerely…

P forward

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66 thoughts on “Portobello Park and government interference with our common rights

  1. It is however clear that the majority of local people are in favour of the proposals to build a new Portobello High School on part of Portobello Park, and the reasons for that are straightforward.

    Portobello High School is an excellent school that has served the local community for over 100 years. But 50 years ago a problem was created when the largest secondary school in Edinburgh was built on a site fundamentally too small. The building is not fit for purpose, at the end of its useful life, and on a site that is grossly undersized. There is now an opportunity to rectify that.

    There has been a comprehensive process going back over 10 years looking at how to replace the school. That has included an extensive investigation of possible sites, a statutory educational and public consultation, a prioritisation exercise identifying it as the Edinburgh school in most urgent need of replacement, a lengthy pre-planning consultation, a planning application, and the Private Bill consultation itself. All stages of this process have been conducted rigorously and fairly.

    From the outset it was clear that there was no easy option and that compromise would be required. The core dilemma has stemmed from two sincere aims; obtaining the best new school on one hand and preserving open green space on the other. Everyone can support those goals, but balancing priorities is the challenge.

    However, when options were exhaustively examined and consulted on with the community, one thing became clear: by far the best site for Portobello High School is Portobello Park. In terms of size, location, and the environment it can provide, no other site comes close. It would finally establish the school somewhere large enough to accommodate all the necessary facilities, and turn an underused space into a valued community asset. The Council proposals, with the school on the park, public all-weather pitches, a new park on the existing school site and other open space improvements, offer the best possible outcome.

    That is why there is such strong support for the proposals. The Council’s consultation on the Private Bill was unprecedented (10,000 respondents across the city) with local responses indicating 76% support. The Private Bill is now the only way to deliver the school that our young people need, on a site where the majority want to see it, as quickly as possible and at the lowest cost.

    The Common Good exists for the benefit of a community, and this Private Bill is in the best interests of our community. There would be no change to the status of Common Good land or open space anywhere else in Scotland. Portobello Park would continue to be Common Good, but now dedicated to the important purpose of education as well as recreation.

    • If the existing site for Portobello High is too small then the same can be said for many city schools both in Edinburgh and elsewhere. Will they all start demanding new sites and the chance to build on their local parks? What’s so different about Portobello?

      • Many schools are on constrained sites. That’s not a good thing. Here we have a chance to establish the school on a site large enough to accommodate all the required facilities. There is some net loss of open space but the replacement park on the existing school site would reduce that to a minimum.

      • Lucy: I’m sure many, perhaps most, urban schools like Gillespie’s and Boroughmuir are sited on constrained sites and the same goes for suburban schools such as Portobello High. You ask “What’s so different about Portobello”- I could list quite a fee things but the most notable is undoubtedly the fact that the existing school site will be converted into a park, resulting in almost no loss of parkland.. A major difference I’m sure you agree.

    • The idea of building development proposals in a park because the space is underused is the oldest one in the book. Having unused savings in the bank is is no reason for someone else to spend them. As time goes on these spaces will become even more valuable to public sanity. Even to the retinal quality of our lives. For people in wheelchairs who enjoy the vistas of the park, Just knowing the space is there is very important.
      I find your confidence in the council and the government doing the right thing and “There would be no change to the status of Common Good land or open space anywhere else in Scotland” given the present evidence of public asset stripping across the country, pretty odd given the facts. The only way you can get the school is through ignoring and casting aside common good law. If that can be done in Portabello park, it can be done anywhere else in the country. There is no moral ground to be gained because it is a school that is being built. This land (all of the common good land) is an investment for future generations who will be crammed into less and less space as other building land is covered to accommodate an expanding population. This is why common land is so socially valuable, whether people have fancy houses around it or not. The crux of the matter is and what people should really be worried about, is what the government will do when we allow them to meddle with the law of the land (and believe they will not use it to take more commons). Schools can be built in all sorts of places with a bit of architectural imagination, its not a biggy it happens all the time. But what is, is legislation that could adversely affect other parts of the commons all over the country. Particularly in areas where folk are ignorant of the fact that the Common Good Fund even exists. That I fear could be the legacy of a school in Portabello park.

  2. (Any) school on constrained site = not a good thing = build on park = ok because it is (any) school?

    • That doesn’t follow at all. Just as all buildings aren’t equally valued or valuable, not all parks are either. If Portobello Park were a much cherished and valued space there wouldn’t be 76% local support for building on it.

      • The council are using the school to excuse the develop of the park a development which is unnessecary as they have identified alternatives which satisfy the needs for a new school. Portobello and Edinburgh can have both a new school and the park for use by community. The consultation referred to in earlier comments was a sales exercise by the council

      • The school’s being proposed for part of Portobello Park because it’s by far the best site for it. What few alternatives exist are much poorer options: smaller, poorly located, longer to deliver, more expensive etc.

        The consultation on the proposed Bill gathered a huge response of 10,000, and indicated 70% support across the city, 76% support locally.

  3. Archie, in all cases the Council attempts to build the best possible school within whatever constraints exist locally and with the support of the local community. If the majority did not want the school to go on Portobello Park then it would not be happening. The fact is that we do. The vast majority recognise that this is by far the best site and we are happy that most of the green space is being replaced locally, with a £1M budget to create something we can all enjoy and help to design.

    Before you start trying to elicit support from the general public, it’s really only honest to give them the full facts, not just PPAG’s distorted view.

  4. James Gillespie’s Edinburgh(approx 1100pupils) is currently being rebuilt on its existing 2 hectare site and Boroughmuir (approx 1100pupils) has been allocated a 1 hectare section of a much larger ex-industrial site for its new build. CEC have already acknowledged that a rebuild on the existing site 2.9 hectare site is possible for Portobello High School (1400 pupils), so why have City of Edinburgh Council caused years of delay and legal costs in order to build on a seemingly extravagant 6.4 Hectare site which is strongly oposed?

    The Headmaster of Gillespies has stated publicly that he is delighted with the plans for his State of the Art school.

    Why for example is Gillespies not being built on the Meadows??…. I believe it is because even CEC don’t believe they couldn’t get away with that one.

    Great new schools can be built without destroying parks

    Why are the Scottish Parliament wasting time on a small local issue like this, which has been deemed illegal in the courts and CEC have acknowledged there are other suitable alternatives sites for this much needed new school?

    Is this what we want our Scottish Parliament to be doing?

    For clarity on the above post 76% locally do not support Bill; The truth is that 76% of those in catchment for the school, that voted, voted in favour. The % of the community figure is not actually known as the whole community were not asked. Instead parents and children were canvassed in the playground. There was no minimum age on this poll so many of the votes could not even be verified.

    Very clearly the 70% across the city figure is a complete work of fiction as it is very obvious the whole city were not asked!!

    What we do know for fact is that:
    – over 3000 people oposed the Bill
    – the court has deemed it illegal to build on this park.
    -There are other suitable alternatives

    • And almost 10,000 voted in support of the rebuild. The Parliament has become involved because the vast majority of Portobello residents have asked them to. A very small but vocal group, most with their own narrow self interests, have blocked this school from its outset.

    • Strangely though, over 1,000 of those opposed came from areas outwith Portobello which were specifically targeted by PPAG, Comely Bank, DStockbridge etc. And a large number of those didn’t appear on the electoral register. Why was that do you think?

  5. WARNING : Not everyone distributing internet petitions are honest. This is factually incorrect, manipulative and heavily biased. There is overwhelming support for the council in Portobello to build a new school with better amenities and replace park land. The crux of the matter is a small group of people with time and resources that simply don’t want state school children near their expensive houses. They are happy for a school to be situated on any park as long as its not beside them. Not truly caring about the environment or the law but will USE YOU to further their cause. Beware and research before signing up to anything.

    • Correct analysis. Funny how the PPAG supporters are so keen to stop building on the Park using a ‘green’ argument but then propose building on another park. Hypocritical NIMBY’s.

    • there was a rather hilarious blog type thing posted elsewhere that showed this stunning view of some scottish moorland…. im sure sean can remember exactly which one….. anyway… it was around 400miles away from where portobello park actually is….

      please do go onto street view and look at our beloved park. its a mess…

      its common land…. well. the commoners want a school. and we want it -6 years ago. my daughter will be in february. at this rate she isnt going to see the new school.

  6. The problem with the consultation is that it was,open to abuse. Anyone on either side could have gone through the electoral roll and completed submissions. I believe that is what has,happened in this case and explains the suspiciously.high levels of support in the immediate area. There has so far, been no independent verification of the data.

    • Do you have any evidence to support this belief David? Or is it just a convenient way of wishing away the result of a well conducted consultation?

    • Perhaps the high levels of support in the immediate area are due to high levels of support in the immediate area.

  7. Not only was the consultation open to abuse it contained extremely leading questions – both of which may have led people to believe that it was the park or no school at all, and that the proposed replacement park was a definite. The Council have a past history of U turns as regards replacement open space on that site. Building a school on Common Good is no different from building anything else, it’s still a building and the thin end of the concrete wedge. This WILL set a precedent and endanger Common Good all over the country should it be passed. This is way out of the remit of the Council. Private Bills are for extreme cases where there is no other alternatives AT ALL. They’ve admitted there are other sites available and they’ve managed to find other sites for other schools in the City, why not this one?

  8. In fact, the majority of the responses to the consultation from people who were NOT on the electoral roll came from those who opposed the school on the park. Yes, a small number of children voted YES, as they were entitled to. But how do PPAG explain their non-registered voters?

    As for the ‘endangering common good all over Scotland’ argument, that’s just completely bogus. It’s simply scaremongering to try to perusade people outwith the area to support their NIMBY campaign. They were happy enough for the school to go on other parks nearby, just not theirs. They come across as eco-warriers but it’s all just greenwash, bankrolled by a few very wealthy local residents.

    Andy Wightman believes that Common Good belongs to the community and it is they who should decide how it should be used. Well the community has decided and we want to build a school.

    • Andy Wightman, who was oft quoted by Archie, does not believe Portobello Park is Common Good.

  9. “On another occasion three or four local schools were closed and a school was built in Kelvingrove park to take all of the pupils” and “The city council also backed plans for a night club in the cities Botanic Gardens”. Slightly economical with the truth on both of these, twisting the facts to meet the agenda. The new primary school in Kelvingrove took up the space of a little used car park, parks department yard that was not open to the public and overgrown fenced off ground. The plan for the night club in the Botanic Gardens was rightly turned down however the space to be used was the long derleict railway station underneath the park with an entrance onto Great Western road. the proposed plan was to use the

    • The space the school took up was the maintenance department of the park and was in use prior to the school, it was closed to make way for the school. The night club in the tunnel would have blocked any reuse of the tunnel for future transport. Classic GCC Do away with local schools have parents drive the kids to school. Do away with local park maintenance depos, have trucks drive across the city to do maintenance in the park, creating more traffic and shut a tunnel off that could be put into service to alleviate some of that traffic. There were no detailed plans for the nightclub, apart from a red line drawn on a map of the park. The only plan was that the council would fight as hard as they could for the developer to place something within the red lines. And to test the water to see if the natives would put up with it, which they didn’t.

      The problem with these ideas and schools in parks is they stem from one generation thinking. We do not have the resources past generations enjoyed any more, the openness and freedom of space. Which is why we need to be careful for our kids sake with what we have and wary of those who would take it from us. By that I do not mean the parents who want the school, I have every sympathy. But by those in office whose allegiance is to business interests rather than those whose interests they are supposed to protect.

  10. A new school is for the common good of the local community, surely this common good land should be utilised for common good of the vast majority !

  11. Ask the City of Edinburgh Council why Portobello Park was taken into the Common Good without seeking the opinion of the Courts (Archie always wanted the CEC to take itself to court).
    Answer – Don’t Know.
    Ask who made the decision.
    Answer – Don’t know.
    Ask when it was decided and who attended the meeting – eh, can’t help you there.

    The whole thing stinks of a dirty trick and drags your blog into a whole new zone. Add on the FACT that most of this Green Space is being replaced, as PPAG asked for. Then you really have to wonder what this is all about.

    Is it about how close the Green Space is to ones own property, then given the Chair of PPAG suggested building on “a flat featureless area of Figgate Park” then you may be entitled to think so.

    Is there a failure on behalf of the Portobello Community Council by “taking a neutral,stance” when 76% of locals were for the school,on the park. Well given the number of strong stances the PCC have taken without consulting the community – you betcha there has.

    Even although our kids have missed out on the opportunity of a new school, one good thing has come out of this, we won’t sleep while the clique runs the show. You blew it.

    There, I feel better now.

  12. A court of law (3 Judges) ruled it illegal and I think that should carry a little more weight than Andy Wightman who admits he is no legal expert.

    The community can get a great new school and keep a park. It’s a no brainer.

    Name calling is a losers argument. Those agressively supporting the needless destruction of a park are themselves unaffected by it’s loss; move it on to their local park and watch the difference! 3000 people oposed the bill, there aren’t that many expensive houses round the park.

    • Judges are there to interpret and apply the law as it is, not decide what it should be. That is the proper jurisdiction of the legislature: parliament.

      By far the best site for the school is on Portobello Park and 7,000 people supported the proposed Bill in the consultation. Local people are mostly in favour of the proposals, and for good reason.

    • Jennifer your community are telling you they would happily have a new school next to their homes it is long over due and badly needed – they can see further than the end of their nose and realise how important a new school is in the community whether it is of direct benefit to them or not. You are not listening. Everyone knows In truth it isn’t 3000 that oppose it we all know a large chunk of those names were from people who were duped. PPAG campaign lacked integrity and its leaders have lost their moral compass along the way. You also know its not a beautiful park that is worth saving its merely a strip of land disused other than a dog toilet. A new purpose built replacement parkland and new amenities in the school will be so much better and benefit the community far more. You also know that their are no real viable options in catchment. Any other option is smaller, far more expensive, contaminated, will take longer or have a far greater environmental impact. Just as long as it isn’t on your door step though it doesn’t matter. Have some common sense and a little humility.

    • Jennifer, Portobello Park IS my local park – I live 2 minutes from the park and see on a daily basis what a wasteland it has become over many, many years. The park is only used by dog walkers and is considered by many local residents to be a dogs toilet – hence the 76% local support for the school on the park. Many local residents actually want the use of the park changed so as it is used by the whole community as opposed to a few dog walkers. Many local people see this as an opportunity for a wasteland to be transformed into a real asset which will benefit all. Schoolchildren would use this area 5 days a week, youths using the sports pitches most nights of the week and, adults attending evening classes and using the school swimming pool out-with school hours – therefore catering for the whole community as opposed to catering for the few. Park supporters just won’t accept that the majority of local residents actually support the Private Bill to change the use of the park and all the conspiracy theories begin! I have no school age children and do not personally benefit from the school on the park – but support it wholeheartedly.

      • It is really really sad that all you see when you look at that open space is a wasteland with building potential. You don’t notice the views, the wildlife, thengreenery, the people walking their dogs and chatting to their neighbours, the kids running about playing or the adults jogging on the grass? It is true that the council have neglected it and it looks a bit shabby, but it most definitely is not a wasteland, and calling it a “dog toilet” is just derogatory and condescending. Schoolchildren currently have school site they use 5 days a week, and adults attend classes there and children use the swimming pool out of school hours, so not much net community gain there as far as I can see. The council made an 11th hour, half hearted offer to turn A BIT of that existing site into a park, but they could easily change their minds again, and most likely will. Some residents want to build on the park, and some don’t, but the real issue is the law, and how Edinburgh Council think it doesn’t apply to them.

      • Lucy, I could not find a “reply” button to reply to your post so I have decided to reply here. You are wrong in thinking that all I can see is an open wasteland with building potential. When I think of what this desolate wasteland could become in the future I see 1400 children laughing and chatting when using this area 5 days a week, I see children enjoying their onsite sports facilities doing their various outdoor P.E. activities. I see youths in the evening using the sports pitches and chatting with their friends, I see adults using the new facility and landscaped surrounding area evenings and weekends. I see all ages of the local community attending the park to support the school football/rugby teams at their home games, I see parents with their younger children using the remaining park area whilst waiting to collect their high school children at the end of each day. I see cyclists using the new cycling paths that will be incorporated into the park area, I see people walking their dogs and chatting with their friends and neighbours. I see all the greenery and wildlife that will remain in the remaining park area surrounding the school, I see landscaping, improved footpaths and lighting surrounding the park and traffic calming on roads. I see all ages of the whole community using this area daily and into the evening – as opposed to a few dog walkers now and again. I will still be able to see the views as the school is only a few stories high and will not blot out Arthur Seat and the surrounding views. As you can see, I see immense community gain. I see so much more than “your view” of what I see. Perhaps it is you that needs to widen your view of what this area could become and the gain involved to the local community. I assume that with 76% local support for the school on the park that those people share my view of the tremendous asset this area could become – as opposed to your view.
        You are however correct when you say that I don’t see the children running about playing or adults jogging on the park – that is because children don’t actually play on the park. The registered “safe play” area for children are the grounds of Brunstane Primary School (a few minutes walk from the park) and that is where they all go and have done so for many many years. As for adults jogging on the park, I know quite a few joggers and they choose not to jog on the park due to the amount of dogs dirt that is not lifted by dog owners (their words not mine).
        It is unfortunate that you consider: calling it a “dog toilet” is just derogatory and condescending – many local residents to the park consider it to be “the truth”.
        Apologies for my long post but as you can see it took quite a bit of space to list some of the benefits to local residents.

      • R Moffat – I said that all you can see an open wasteland with building potential. You then said no, I am wrong, what you see is a wasteland with building potential. (you then described that potential in great detail with plenty of rose tinting).

        I wasn’t talking about your “vision” of the future, but of what is there now. You can paint an idyllic picture of what might be when there is a new school in a lush paradise, replacing a barren wasteland, but like the article says, you need to “smell the coffee”.

      • Lucy, please accept my apologies if I have upset you with a truthful version of how I and many local residents see this area – it was not my intention. I have already explained how I (and many local residents) currently see this area – it is a dogs toilet and only used by dog walkers. I note that you claim I paint an idyllic picture with plenty of rose tinting but to be honest my vision is based on the actual plans and drawings for the proposed school, maybe you should check them out and hopefully you too can have a better understanding and appreciation of the proposals. Unfortunately your post comes across as slightly aggressive and I have no wish to enter into a cat-fight with you. I merely responded to a post in a polite manner – as a local resident with no personal gain whatsoever from the school on the park.

      • I’ve just had a wee think about what I see when I look at the industrial site at Baileyfield. Some people see a piece of “contaminated” land. When I think of what this desolate wasteland could become in the future I see schoolchildren laughing and chatting when using this area 5 days a week (except when they’re working in their state of the art classrooms), I see children enjoying their onsite sports facilities doing their various indoor and outdoor P.E. activities. I see youths in the evening using the sports pitch onsite and the 5 aside pitches across the road and chatting with their friends. I see adults using the new facility and the nearby facilities on the high street/prom. I see all ages of the local community still able to access Portobello Park. (I don’t see any parents picking up their teenage children, other than those in cars giving them a lift home)

  13. David (above) I guess it’s true both sides could have trawled the electoral register and completed erroneous forms. The mistake we pro parkers made was to hand hundreds of forms in in one go. That’s not the way individual respondents would behave. With hindsight it was a very silly thing for us to have done.

  14. and you take the folk from outside the catchment area they shouldent count not and 76% agree to build on the park you you said the parks the peoples park its more like the a 10 mile area park

    • Bob Jefferson said in his petition to try and force PPAG to drop its appeal of the Outer House decision last year that PPAG had “no prospect of success”, yet three senior judges unanimously upheld PPAG’s appeal and proved him wrong.

      • Surprised most people, and just shows what a mess the law is regarding CG, but that’s ancient history and things have moved on. Can you explain in what way a precedent will be set and how it will affect the way CG land is treated in the future?

      • It surprised Edinburgh City Council, and it surprised PFANS, but I don’t agree that it surprised most other people. It is not ancient history – it is a ruling from 2012 and it is very much a living issue, much as you may wish to pretend otherwise. There is significant legal advice that this Private Bill will have implications for common good assets throughout the country. You do not wish to acknowledge this, but you are not impartial. The 4 MSPs on the Private Bill Committee have stated that they are impartial so they may take a different view, and they may consider the legal advice presented to them

      • Yes but what does “significant legal advice that this Private Bill will have implications for common good assets throughout the country” actually boil down to. It’s easy to say, but what does it actually mean, if anything? What implications will it have?

  15. Lucy (if that is your name) you know fine well there are no kids running around, no neighbours chatting and no wildlife your pants are on fire!!! We have just had a fab summer and every day the land was as near to empty and that’s not because the council haven’t made it pretty enough – peddle your manipulation somewhere else

    • No one who visits the park regularly would make this comment. As Lucy says, the space is used by walkers (with and without dogs) and runners. I’ve seen cyclists, people practising golf shots, and one person who wanted to learn how to put up a tent. During the winter, tree workers left a huge mud track around three sides of the park between January and April, but people kept using the park. The good weather has brought picknickers, sunbathers, people watching enjoying long summer evenings, even the children who are supposedly never there. And I’ve often seen neighbours meeting on the park and chatting. I’m not a member of any group, just someone who has used this beautiful space and benefited from it for a long time.

      • Picknickers? Sunbathers? Children? I think you must have been in the wrong park. The number of users of Portobello Park has remained constant over the last few years, with or without the mud tracks – a handful of local dog owners. The only occasion I can recall seeing children in PP was when supporters of the school staged a rally there.

      • I don’t live all that near the park but from what I’m reading Mr Jefferson and Ms Moffat seem to spend their whole day monitoring usage. Would I be correct? How do you know who, how many, when and what for people are using the park all day every day? Any time I have been at the park I’ve not been on my own, there are always other people there. Surely if the Council made more of this park it would be right to assume that more people would use it. It’s wrong to say this school would be in a park setting – there wouldn’t be a park if the school went there.

      • Absolute rubbish and you know it! I live very near and have done so for over 40 years and I pass several times a day – every day.. It is not well used and not loved. Have yet to see a PPAGer on it at any random time. When was the last time any of you supported the golf club and played a round? when was the last time you had a picnic?….Yep thought not! you love to look, love the idea of no children going to school there to avoid any inconvenience you fear this might cause you and love the power to bully and trick people into your view. That’s what angers your community and has turned people in droves against your cause. They pass by all the time and see its never used. Eventually people see through the lies and your behavior does not serve you well for example having a facebook page like BIOB where you mock parents with glee that a school isn’t built yet and despite numerous requests you childishly have the PHS badge on it so that it looks like a legitimate site from the school or parents. Your behavior is confrontational and sinister and this page here is another attempt of many to manipulate people to your view. Where will you stop to get what you want? the bigger picture in Syria is neighbour against neighbour but who is really winning – no-one.

      • In reply to Jim Shearer, I drive past the park at least once a day, not always at the same time. My remarks are based on my observations over a number of years. It is conceivable that I just keep missing all the picknickers and children playing, but it is unlikely. Many other people have come to the same conclusion – that the park is not ‘well-loved’ and that in fact it is simply a place where a few local people walk their dogs. The usage survey confirmed that.

        If we consider Portobello Park as a whole, including the Golf Course, then the school will be situated in a parkland setting. And the new, improved path network will mean that people will be able to walk their dogs, jog, cycle etc in a much more pleasant environment.

  16. Such a pity that someone took the time to write an article that is so full of factual inaccuracies that it borders on fiction! Can I suggest that the author tries their hand at writing a book. I could recommend a good local publisher for works such as this.

  17. If you are going to call yourself ‘the truth’ at least speak the truth- Lucy is giving an accurate account, the only problem is you don’t agree (or clearly do not like what she has to say).. Lucy is correct there have been rebuilds on land which is smaller than the Portobello site. Its sheer laziness to suggest that building on the park is the best solution when there are both brownfield options available as well as a possible rebuild. One extra all weather pitch does is not a good enough reason to build on the park. If that is the case we might as well start building proposed builds on the meadows (completely ludicrous!) Portobello like other schools in Edinburgh does not need to be built on the park. It can be built on smaller grounds quite easily and if the council had not acted illegally then there could be a new ‘portobello’ high school. Now, are you going to tell me that the council acting illegally is okay? it really would not surprise me! there is no ‘good’ reason which which excuses the council for building on the park. The people who are fighting for this school are the same people who will be complaining about the lack of green space in 10 years time when there is a lack of green space for their children or grandchildren to play on and they will have no one to blame but themselves. Another thing, there is no way anyone wants to use that park, the council have done nothing to keep it,… if you were to open your eyes and look at the park you would have to agree that the council have let it get in quite a state in comparison to the other parks in Portobello. that is the reason why people do not use the park.

    • “One extra all weather pitch…”

      Well the existing school does have a synthetic pitch,but it’s a 5-a-side one about 0.07Ha in size. The proposed school on the park would have two full-sized synthetic pitches, floodlit and freely accessible to the public, measuring about 1.6Ha.

      Characterising a more than 20 fold increase in pitch provision as “one extra all weather pitch” is disingenuous to the point of dishonesty.

      But par for the course I suppose.

  18. Diana Cairns (PPAG stalwart) said in her submitted objection to the bill……..” bill would affect my interests as I use the park regularly for exercise and recreation. It is the only sizeable piece of open space in the area and is useful for walking circuits. I need easily accessible green open space in order to get fresh air and exercise, which is essential for my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.”

    Jeez… you live at the gate to one of Portobello’s other parks. How much more accessible does green space have to be Dianna or are you just painting a bleak picture to sway parliament?

    The majority of the community want this school on part of the park and a replacement park for you to do your circuits.

    • Or there is Brighton Park, just around the corner, where my wife and daughter are currently training for a 5k race. It’s 17 and a quarter laps if anyone is interested. Or the Figgate Park, one of the most beautiful green spaces in Edinburgh, within 5 minute’s walk. Spoiled for choice really.

  19. Portobello Dog Park- let’s face it. With the exception of about 300 hours per annum for football Portobello’s Dogs currently have twice the space of our 1400 high school kids-in this park alone.

    Dog Park Definition
    Off-leash dog areas, or dog parks, provide a community setting in which people can gather and socialise[1]and where they can observe the interaction of groups of dogs at play. Dog parks allow owners and their dogs to spend time together and offer dogs a space for play and companionship with others.[2]Leashes can cause dogs to become territorial.[3] Roaming free is beneficial for dogs.

    Children in dog parks

    As a rule small children should not be taken inside dog parks, although opinions differ. Many dog parks forbid children from entering for the obvious reason that an over excited dog can bump a child during aggressive play, causing a fall, or, worse, bite the child.[36] Some dog parks allow children inside if they are properly chaperoned by an adult.[37] The general agreement is that adults should be cautious about bringing children inside a dog park and be aware that it is hard to keep a careful eye on both the dog and a child. Before entering a dog park, children should be told about the dangers of petting a strange dog; cautioned not to run or scream inside the enclosure; and to stand still if a dog turns aggressive.

    • So are you saying that once (if) the high school is built on the park, the entire area will become a no-go area for dog walkers?

      • P.s. I’m only asking for clarification – I’m not suggesting that children and dogs need to be kept separate, alhtough there are obviously some dogs that should not be allowed near children.

  20. Every case needs to be considered on its own merits. That’s exactly what will happen with the Private Bill. We shouldn’t confuse setting a precedent with setting a legal precedent. And that’s what we need to do with these Common Good issues. PPAG like to use emotive phrases like ‘land-grabbing Council’, they claim that the promised replacement park ‘will never materialise’ and they see conspiracies everywhere, wildly accusing public officials (including the Head of Bills) as being PFANS supporters. They appeal to a particular mindset.

    I’m sure that many of these CG cases deserve your support but I would urge you to consider the facts in this particular case very carefully. You may well come to the same conclusion as 76% of the local community.

  21. The consultation was Edinburgh-wide, although very little information about it was available outside of the school catchment area.

    There is a legal opinion from a land expert that says the bill will set a precedent affecting the way common good land is treated in the future. Who do you want to believe – him or the armchair lawyers?

    • Diana Cairns continues to claim that the Portobello Park Private Bill will set a ‘precedent’. Perhaps she could explain in what way precisely it sets a precedent and how exactly this will affect CG land in the future. It’s all very well to bandy around such claims but they need to have some substance.

      What we do know is that each private bill is considered entirely on its own mertis, without reference to other cases, so the success of this particular bill would have no implication for other such similar bills in the future. And she can’t mean ‘legal precedent’ because this is not a matter to be decided before a court of law.

      So what does this ‘expert’ legal opinion amount to? Isn’t it obvious that it’s simply a ploy to try to appeal to a wider audience? It’ll be your park next etc etc. The PPAG campaign from the beginning has been characterised by scaremongering and mispresentation and a lot of well-meaning folk have been duped along the way. Fortunately, the vast majority of local people (76%) aren’t taken in.

  22. There is a lot of talk in these comments about scaremongering, seeing conspiracies everywhere, a particular mindset, Lies, damned lies, statistics, that lot, this lot, and circular arguments that do not go anywhere. The point is no one knows how this bill will affect the CG if it is passed. The original post was backed by some evidence that verified concerns for CG law being changed this way. It was also tempered by some knowledge of the present political climate.
    Where is your evidence that convinces you to show such faith in national or local politics, that all are working for the common good? There is nothing of any substance to back this up. There is plenty to show the opposite and why we should be worried. There are also many ways of arriving at (76%) a lot of well-meaning folk can been duped along the way if they are unaware of relevant facts of the possible implications of changing the CG. You seem not in the least bit bothered by this and have no interest in exploring these concerns, but rather would place your faith in the political powers who have a track record of duping the public. No one knows exactly the answer to your question “What implications will it have?” But by applying some common sense to the evidence that has gone before there is every reason that they will not be good. Where is the evidence that convinces yourself otherwise? Have Edinburgh City Council, the stewards of the cities common good for the people showed any interest in promoting the CG? Interest in its potential as a community resource? Clarified the law to make CG more understandable? Been transparent of how the fund is used in the city? Where are the examples that should reassure us of “your” confidence that private bills are the way forward for dealing with the CG?

    • Hogben writes, “the point is no one knows how this bill will affect the CG if it is passed.” This is odd because Diana Cairns claims, “there is a legal opinion from a land expert that says the bill will set a precedent affecting the way common good land is treated in the future.” So, which is true?

      I am not promoting private bills as ‘the way forward for dealing with the CG’. Private Bills are a measure of last resort. Clearly, there is a problem with the law regarding CG and it needs to be clarified and probably re-written but that isn’t the reponsibility of CEC.

      The point is that this Private Bill does not seek to change the law but rather to allow an exception to it in these particular circumstance for this particular case. The status of the land will not change. It will remain CG but it will have a school built upon it, something that 76% of local people (that is the official figure, I’m not just making this up you know) consider to be for the ‘common good’. If the local community didn’t want this to happen then it wouldn’t, it’s as simple as that.

      As for Diana Cairns’ suggestion that the new £1M replacement park will never materialise, that is exactly the cynical, paranoid ‘mindset’ that I refer to, which seems to mark out many PPAG supporters. Local people are very enthusiastic about the prospect and many have already submitted ideas as to what features they would like in it. To suggest that the Council will build the school and then renege on its promise, which has cross-party support, is simply ridiculous.

      • Please refrain from using terms “cynical, paranoid ‘mindset’” it is disrespectful. I asked some simple questions that you have ignored and used the reply to rubbish Diana Cairns and folk you don’t happen to agree with. Just repeating the same script to every question is a tactic that has a sell by date, eventually folk will want proper discussion of the questions.

  23. I just wanted to fully support Sean’s first response and R Moffat’s eloquent “vision” of how a school in the park could benefit the whole community. Please listen to 7,000 people, 76% of the local community, many of whom have followed this issue in detail for up to ten years. One final point to add to R Moffat’s vision; it should also include a thriving golf course working closely with the neighbouring school and thus ensuring a steady stream of new, young members.

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