Portobello Park: The four to the fore in verdict

Committee will examine case for change in the law. Picture: Dan Phillips
Committee will examine case for change in the law. Picture: Dan Phillips
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A COMMITTEE of four MSPs has been set up to examine the proposed change in the law paving the way for a new school in Portobello Park.

The Holyrood politicians hold the key to whether the city council can overcome the legal barrier to building the replacement Portobello High on its preferred site following last year’s court ruling against the plan.

Judges threw out plans to build in the park when they upheld an appeal by Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) against the move.

The council has introduced a private Bill in the Scottish Parliament to reclassify the park as “alienable Common Good land” and open it up for education-related development.

The specially-established committee to scrutinise the Bill could hold an initial meeting within the next month, but is expected to begin its work in earnest after the summer recess.

Parliament’s rules for dealing with such legislation mean no Edinburgh or Lothian MSPs are allowed to be on the committee.

The convener will be Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon, with the SNP’s James Dornan, MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, as deputy convener. The other two members will be Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) and the SNP’s Fiona McLeod (Strathkelvin & Bearsden).

The committee will first consider the general principles of the Bill and could take evidence from the key players before recommending to the full parliament whether it should proceed.

The second stage sees the committee considering the details of the Bill and hearing from objectors as well as the promoters.

And finally the full parliament will decide whether or not the Bill is passed.

Education convener Paul Godzik “I’m very pleased the parliament is moving ahead quickly with this. It’s clearly an absolutely vital project for the council and there is a huge amount of support for it, as demonstrated by our consultation. We realise the parliament will look at this in depth.”

He said the council hoped the Bill would be passed by MSPs before February next year, when the existing planning permission for a new school expires. But the council has already submitted a fresh planning application as a precaution.

He said: “It is absolutely vital we are ready to move as quickly as possible. It would be ridiculous if the Bill was a few days later and we then had to start going through the full planning process again.” Alison Connelly, spokeswoman for PPAG, which won the court action and wants the school built elsewhere, said they would be lodging an objection to the Bill.

She said: “We hope people who don’t have a vested interest or a previous connection with the proposal will come at it with a fresh eye.

“We will be arguing that there are alternative ways the school could be delivered and we hope the committee will be willing to give some consideration to these and why the council decided against them.”