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
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.