A STAGGERING 12,000 responses have been received to a consultation on a Private Bill that could clear the path for a new high school to be built on a community park.
It is the highest ever number of responses to any public consultation launched by the city’s children and families department.
Council chiefs are proposing to take the Bill to the Scottish Parliament to address the legal issue currently preventing the local authority from building a new Portobello High School on Portobello Park, which is common good land.
The consultation was launched in December, receiving almost 1000 responses in the first 24 hours.
Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said: “We have had a tremendous response to the consultation, I want to thank everyone who took the time to contribute their views.
“This is obviously a subject that many people feel passionate about. The responses will now be reviewed in detail and a report will be taken to council on March 14 to advise the outcome of the consultation process and the recommended next steps regarding the proposed Private Bill.”
Portobello For A New School (PFANS) supports the council’s proposals to build a school on the park, while Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) strongly opposes the plans and believes the green space should be preserved.
Sean Watters, chair of PFANS, said: “That’s a huge number, but then the issue is very important to the local community. It will be interesting to see the responses and where they come from when analysed. Whatever the result, you’d have to look at that level of engagement as vindication of the consultation itself.”
Alison Connelly, spokeswoman for PPAG, also commented on the “large number” of responses to the consultation, which closed on January 31.
“It will be interesting to hear more detail from the council about the responses they have received and how they have analysed them,” she said.
If approval is granted at next month’s meeting to submit the Private Bill to parliament, the timescale for taking it through Holyrood is around six months to a year from its introduction, which means it may be early next year before the council has a clear way ahead.
Hundreds of people attended two heated public meetings last month, which were held to debate the council’s Private Bill proposals.
Representatives from PFANS and PPAG joined council officers at the top table to express their views at the meetings, which were held at Portobello Town Hall and Meadowbank Sports Centre, with a question and answer session afterwards.
Education chiefs’ plans to build a new Portobello High on the park were scuppered when the Court of Session upheld an appeal by PPAG in September last year, which ruled that the council could not build there as it is common good land.