Sciennes school playground battle backed by city chiefs

Sciennes Primary School
Sciennes Primary School

Calls by a Capital primary school to extend its playground out into a busy road have won the support in principle of councillors.

Sciennes Primary School wants to enlarge its area for pupils to play out on to Sciennes Road, and have called for part of the route to be pedestrianised.

The road is currently a busy route for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children but the hospital is expected to close later this year and relocate to a new premises next to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in Little France.

The school wants to open up the street for children to have more space at playtime, as well as for pedestrians and cyclists to use outside of school hours.

Laura Bird from the Sciennes School parent council, said: “With the hospital departing, we think this is an amazing opportunity, a once in a century opportunity to rearrange the road to the benefit of the primary school children and people by creating more of a park there.

“We are hopeful that the road could be closed from Livingstone to Roseneath Places.

“We hope next term to really nail down how we would like it to look.

“We think that stopping up Sciennes Road and turning some of that road space into play space is a great idea.

“It would be additional play space for the school. Out of school hours, it would be a nice little park space for people living in flats and a lovely route for pedestrians and cyclists. We think it would be good use of a public asset.”

Cllr Steve Burgess brought a motion to the South East Locality Committee to look further at the proposals. The schools wants the committee to issue a stopping up order and put it out for a local consultation.

Outgoing head teacher of Sciennes Primary School, Alison Noble, who retired last term, said: “There are recommended guidelines for outdoor play space and at Sciennes, with our 670 children, we have for many, many years staggered our break times to reduce the challenges associated with the lack of space.

“We understand at Sciennes that we are not meeting those suggested guidelines. I think the opportunity as the next part of our phased plans to continue to improve the playground. The opportunity of the extended space into Sciennes Road would provide additional and improved play opportunities.”

Phoebe Cochrane, chair of the parent council, said concerns have been raised about traffic and road safety outside the school since the 1990s.

She added: “The road in front of the school, due to its location next to the Sick Kids Hospital has never been calmed properly.  It has been a secondary route for emergency vehicles.

“The current layout and not particularly good signage makes it difficult to enforce in that a lot of drivers don’t seem to notice the flashing signs that come on.

“We know from meeting with one of the NHS Lothian transport consultants that the hospital generates a huge amount of traffic. It’s anticipated that when the hospital leaves, there will be much less traffic on Sciennes Road.”

The committee will  hear a detailed report as to how the proposals can be taken forward.

Cllr Alison Dickie, the vice education and schools convener, said: “It is a child’s right to be able to play.

“I have absolutely no hesitation in supporting this.”