Don't let a minority hold back the future

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THE debate over the location of the new Portbello High school is a classic example of self versus society. No one, with a clear conscience, could question the need for a new high school. Despite the best efforts of the current school's staff it is, at best, clapped-out and inadequate, and at worst a death trap.

The 1200 current students and the annual intake of 270 S1 students need new facilities. Fact.

These students are society's future - merely look at Portobello High School's past high-flyers to see their contribution to the great and the good.

So, what exactly is the opposition to the new high school being built on the golf course? Can the residents of the enormous detached houses surrounding the proposed site claim to hold so much potential for the future? Does spoiling the view out of their enormous bay windows really figure? Hardly.

In an age dominated by video games and junk food, Porty pupils' hour-long outdoor games sessions are reduced to around 20 minutes due to travelling to and from Meadowbank and the Jack Kane Centre (both of which are to be 'redeveloped').

Therefore, one priority of the new high school is to provide the students with in-situ green space to exercise in.

The residents of Park Terrace should draw some comfort that no-one is proposing to put a carbon copy of the present High School in their back gardens. You just have to look at other new schools in the Lothians to see that they are open, leafy, landscaped campuses with trees and wildlife gardens etc.

As for the quality of the existing green space, it resembles no more than a grass covered wasteland, with typically only a handful of people on it. There are no established trees, no landscaping, no room for wildlife. It provides poor value in terms of recreation, play or natural beauty.

But supporters of the golf course site beware - the minority that oppose the golf course location are well-heeled, well-educated and well-connected.

The golf course being such an obvious site, for centrality and safety, many Portobello residents wrongly believe that a decision has already been signed and sealed. The battle has not yet even started!

Of course, all the possible locations for the new school need to be assessed fairly, but the truth of the matter is there are precious few possibilities safely and sensibly within the boundaries of the catchment area.

This will be a monumental decision for the future of Edinburgh, please don't let it be influenced by yesterday's people.

Neil Mitchard, Parsons Green Terrace, Edinburgh

Intelligent debate by Hewitt lacking

IN his letter to the News on Caltongate (May 31) Ron Hewitt, the chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce, asks for intelligent debate on the merits of the proposal. That is what the scheme's many critics have been providing.

They have been giving reasoned arguments against its basic idea - smashing through the historic wall of buildings down the Canongate, and demolishing several other useful buildings simply to provide a "prime" site for yet another five-star hotel.

Rather than answering these criticisms, Mr Hewitt seems to confine his response to inaccurate abuse.

He calls Caltongate an "outline planning application" when it is in fact a "masterplan". It does not bear any relation to the traditional "fishbone" pattern of the Old Town, let alone the different historic character of Canongate.

As for not being able to judge its architecture, why has the developer provided the press with glossy images of his intentions if they bear no relation to reality?

I suggest Mr Hewitt's accusation against Peter Wilson that "ignorance on this scale at this level is inexcusable" would be better applied to Mr Hewitt himself.

Jim Johnson, King's Stables Road, Edinburgh

Bathgate rail plans need adjustment

IT is great news that Bathgate rail Bill is progressing, but the authorities are still not listening to the locals, who want new stations at Eastfield and Bathgate (east) at the fire station.

Station car parks must be three-story. The existing ones are full by the middle of the rush hour. Many firms specialise in

Let's hope there will be some funds left over to push start a few extra branches and stations in Fife at Dysert, Methill, Lundin Links and Newburgh. Scotland's railways are carrying an impressive 15 per cent more passengers, with more stations this figure could be exceeded.

Colin C Maclean, Hillpark Avenue, Edinburgh

Memory of Elsie has been honoured

WITH regard to the article "Remembered abroad but forgotten at home" (News, May 24), there are at least three plaques to Dr Elsie Inglis.

We were responsible for casting the large plaque at 219 High Street, Edinburgh. We also cast a bronze plaque to Dr Inglis in the Women of Achievement series which are part of a trail in Edinburgh, cast in 1995.

There is also a bronze plaque cast on behalf of Edinburgh University.

Andrew C Laing, Charles Laing & Sons Ltd, Beaverbank Place, Edinburgh

MacAskill ought to get on board

I CAN'T help but laugh when reading Kenny MacAskill's continuing criticism of plans for trams in Edinburgh ("Cities must link up transport, says MacAskill", News, June 3).

Because while his politically motivated moaning about trams shows how out of touch he is with modern European transport developments, he is right when he says that we must compete with European places like Dublin and Stockholm.

Those cities have already invested in tram systems, which have been enormously successful. It is sad that Mr McAskill thinks our capital city doesn't deserve at least the same investment in a clean and modern tram system - I for one support the trams in Edinburgh.

James McMahon India Street, Edinburgh

Tram money could fund taxis for us all

COUNCILLOR Donald Anderson (chief cheerleader for the tram team) used a taxi 167 times in a year to ferry him from Gilmerton to the council ("City chiefs to put the brakes on taxi trips after 3500 bill", News, June 8).

It would appear that his glowing references for his experience of public transport need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Seeing as he's such a fan of the taxi (flexible point-to-point transport that actually goes where and when you want it - the opposite of a tram), perhaps he would care to take up a suggestion of mine.

Let's not squander hundreds of millions on a single tram line that is disconnected from the rest of the network and will be totally inflexible - why not spend the money on subsidising taxis (for a decade or so) so that all the citizens of Edinburgh can enjoy the Anderson taxi experience for free?

J Gailey, Learmonth Gardens, Edinburgh

Faith focus is a bad school of thought

LIAM CALE (Letters, June 8) is not entirely accurate about education being sold off.

With its increasing focus on faith-based education that enables some state schools to exclude children and teachers on the grounds of their religious beliefs, the Government has surely replaced its mantra of "education, education, education" with "education, indoctrination, discrimination." Education has been "souled" off!

Alistair McBay, National Secular Society, Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh