Protect Green Space Across Scotland Petition

For seven years local people have worked to keep Portobello Park free from development by the City of Edinburgh Council. In September 2012, the Court of Session confirmed that the Park is inalienable common good land and that it cannot be used as the site of the new Portobello High School. Despite the Council having identified alternative suitable brownfield sites for the new school, they are now trying to use the Scottish Parliament to give them permission to build on the Park through a Private Bill. If successful, this Bill could set a precedent for other councils to use this route to obtain permission to circumvent common good protection, putting common good land and open spaces across Scotland at risk.

If you agree that building on green space should not be allowed when a brownfield alternative exists, and you are concerned about the implications of this Private Bill, please sign

Folk could also consider objecting to the private bill as we need as many folk across Scotland to do so.  It does cost £20 though!  Representation is not cheap.  Here is a link to guidance for objectors:

There is mention of adverse impact to people’s interests and it seems to mention a list of points that look as though they are financial impacts but I think that even if people don’t live in Portobello or Edinburgh it is acceptable to say that because of the fear of a precedent being set for other councils to follow that could affect other common good land and open spaces across Scotland, you have an interest in the bill as it could affect your local open spaces, adversely affecting your health and wellbeing, or something along those lines.

If you do decide to object, can you let me know please as we would like to keep a tally of objections as far as we can.

Best wishes


13 thoughts on “Protect Green Space Across Scotland Petition

  1. There is another side to this debate.

    The consultation on the proposed Bill attracted 10,000 responses across the city, with 70% in favour. Of respondents from the local area, 76% were in favour. There are reasons for that.

    This has been an ongoing issue for over 7 years and, whilst building on greenspace is never ideal, the majority of local people support it because the park is by far the best site for the school. There would still be 2.2Ha of park left around the school, as well as 2 full sized, freely accessible, all-weather pitches, and the adjacent golf-course would remain. In addition there would be a new 2.2Ha park created on the existing schools site meaning the net loss of Open Space would only be 0.4Ha.

    The proposed Private Bill seeks to reclassify part of Portobello Park as alienable Common Good for the purposes of education, thereby allowing the school to be built. Outwith such an educational function, the park would remain as inalienable Common Good land and associated restrictions would continue to apply. It would not change the legal status of any other Common Good land, or green space, anywhere else.

    No legal precedent would be set by such a Bill. Private Bills are, by their very nature, specific to a particular circumstance and leave the general law unchanged. Also the success or failure of one Private Bill has no bearing on another one. Any Private Bill will be judged by the Scottish Parliament on its own merits. Also, a Private Bill is not an easy option. It is time consuming, with no guarantee of success. To pass, the Scottish Parliament needs to be persuaded of the merits, which in most instances will also require a demonstration of public support.

    When it comes to the Portobello Park Private Bill, it is clear that the local people are broadly in support.

    I absolutely appreciate that some people will find building on a park completely unacceptable whatever the circumstances, but I would ask you consider the matter in detail before signing any petition.

  2. This petition does not reflect the reality of the situation for this bill. It is not a Scotland wide issue, so signing it under this banner is misleading.

    I understand that this is an individual bill that will not affect further building on green space in Scotland, it is particular to Portobello Park.

    There will be a new protected park created and local residents get free access to the new sports facilities as a concession to the loss of space. It is a very good solution for a very much needed school.

    As an aside, I lost all faith in the group who are against building on Portobello park when they suggested alternative parks as locations for the school.

    1. The bill WILL set a precedent and Portobello Park Action Group has a legal opinion from a land expert to this effect.

      The last paragraph in the previous posting is completely untrue. PPAG has never suggested building on other parks.

      The “new park” would not be protected and will never materialise. the council promised replacement open space in 2006 then reneged in 2010 saying they needed the capital receipt from the sale of the old school site. Only when they decided on a private bill to try and circumvent common good protection did they come up with the idea of a “replacement park” as a sweetener to try and persuade people that it wouldn’t be too bad. It will never happen.

      The reality is that there are alternative brownfield sites which could and should be used for the new school.

      1. In the 2006 site consultation PPAG suggested both Bingham & Jewel Parks as suitable alternative sites for the Portobello High School, and suggested St John’s Primary be built on Figgate Park.

  3. PPAG did no such thing. All PPAG did was point out the inconsistencies in the council’s assessments, who stated that Figgate Park was in a flood plain. We suggested building at the former Lismore site, adjacent to Bingham Park, as everyone knew it was slated for closure at that time. Whoever you are Towerbank. get your facts straight.

    1. Not true Diana.

      There were no proposals to close Lismore Primary in 2006. There had been an earlier proposal to do that, but that had been rejected by the Council back in 2004. A school closure programme was floated again in Summer 2007, with a consultation on closing Lismore in Autumn 2008 and a final decision to close the school was taken in November 2008.

      But in 2006, when the closure of Lismore was not on the horizon, PPAG suggested building the new High School on Bingham Park.

      1. The closure of Lismore was always going to go ahead and everyone knew that. And – guess what – it did close, just as everyone knew it would.  PPAG did NOT suggest building the school on Bingham Park but on the site that would be vacated as the footprint of the school would have fitted on the hard standing.

        The fact remains that building on Portobello Park is illegal and no amount of trying to throw up a smokescreen will change that fact.

      2. Untrue. In 2006 PPAG suggested Bingham park and Jewel Park as suitable sites for Porty High, and Figgate Park for St John’s. After the decision to close Lismore was taken in late 2008 PPAG switched to favouring that as a site, but that wasn’t the case in 2006. It’s a matter of public record. And of course, fitting a secondary school of 1400 pupils onto the footprint of a primary school of 270 was never plausible. The reality would be tha majority of Bingham Park would’ve been required too.

        As to the legality, the whole point of the Private Bill is to make building the school on part of Portobello Park lawful.

  4. Nothing of the sort is a public record.

    The following is from our submission to the educational consultation in October 2006. No mention of Bingham Park.

    The options

    We oppose the development of Portobello Park and Golf Course for either schools or housing and therefore we support option A for Portobello High School. Decant issues are being used to put people off this option and the example used at the public meeting of a decant following a fire was inappropriate as a planned decant would be a very different prospect from an emergency decant. The council must consider a decant as a realistic possibility otherwise they would not have commissioned a feasibility study into decant options.
    Many parents understandably fear the prospect of a decant but this could be achieved with little disruption to pupils and teachers if a full decant was done, say into temporary buildings on the Figgate park next door. An added and very important benefit would be a quicker build time and this type of decant has been successfully employed for the rebuild of other schools. Other options for a complete decant would be to use the old Holy Rood school, staggering start and finish times to avoid traffic congestion, Meadowbank House, which is standing empty at the moment or Castlebrae School, which has spare capacity. It was considered acceptable to decant children during a rebuild on site when Portobello High School was being considered as part of the PPP2 project – so why has it now become unacceptable?

    In addition, Portobello High School can be rebuilt on site alongside the existing building, without a decant, like Holy Rood High. This possibility was acknowledged by the council’s consultants after one of the recent public consultation meetings. The Figgate Park (which is not on a flood plain – an inaccuracy in the consultants’ feasibility studies) or Portobello Park could provide playing fields for Option A, thereby eliminating the need for bussing. We ask you to explore thoroughly the option of a rebuild on site without a decant.

    Another point which is interesting to note is that the way the cost of Option A is presented in the report makes it look as though it is much more expensive than the other options, but this is misleading because of course it includes the cost of rebuilding St John’s elsewhere.

    The real cost of a rebuild of Portobello High School on site, minus decant costs, would be £42.1M, which compares very favourably with the estimated cost of option C (£41.2M).

    As to the private bill, it is illegal to build on Portobello Park and, if passed, this bill will set a precedent that will allow other councils to follow the same route. There is an expert legal opinion to this effect and with respect you are not a lawyer.

    1. PPAG made two submissions during the site consultation Diana, one in October and one in July. The July one listed a number of what PPAG considered to be suitable alternative sites, including Bingham Park, Jewel Park and Greenbelt land,

      1. There was no consultation carried out until the educational one in October 2006, when PPAG amongst several others made representations. This was when the development of the whole park and golf course, including a substantial amount of housing, was still on the cards. The council has never said that this will not eventually happen and this is another reason for opposing the development of the park becasue it will not end there. No protest about that from PFANS or local coucnillors.

        1. The formal statutory educational consultation ran from 14 Sept 2006 to 30 Oct 2006, but there was a lengthy informal consultation prior to that. The final report on the consultation summarised comments received over the course of the whole process, including PPAG’s July submission suggesting Bingham and Jewel Parks as suitable alternative sites.

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