The ST Andrews Environmental Protection Association Limited

The Association has been set up with the aim of protecting the environment of St Andrews and North East Fife.

The FIFEplan

STEPAL response to the St Andrews Settlement Plan Section of the FIFEplan:


Comments on Local Plan
In addition to the Strategic Development Area at St Andrews West there are further, significant, proposed allocations for housing. There is apparently no assessment of actual need for housing (and the fact that little “affordable housing” has been delivered) in St Andrews. It appears that the impacts of the cumulative total of housing constructed in recent times, including allocated sites such as at St Leonards (a development far in excess of Adopted Local Plan indicative capacity) and windfall sites such as West Burn Lane, the former Police Station, the St Andrews Bowling Club redevelopment, the Argos redevelopment and various developments off South Street, and the subdivision of properties in South Street, Queen’s Gardens and elsewhere have not been taken into account.

Further major development is proposed for the Tay Coast, Leuchars and Guardbridge Area which will impact hugely on St Andrews.

The significant increase in housing has not been matched by any commensurate increase in the prospective roll of Madras College and an assessment of how a new school at Pipeland would serve this wide catchment area utilising sustainable development principles. This is a serious omission in the plan. There have been significant breaches (such as at Feddinch) in the St Andrews Green Belt since it was established in the October 2012 Adopted Local Plan. Creating an indefensible Green Belt boundary at the eastern boundary of the proposed community use secondary at Pipeland Farm appears to indicate that Fife Council will not seriously oppose proposals for further Green Belt incursions.

Finally, no thought appears to have been given to provision of the necessary infrastructure to underpin the proposals. It is understood that Fife Council plans to sell off its local office. Further there is no indication that the NHS has spare capacity at local GPs or the Community Hospital which will be landlocked by the proposed school at Pipeland. Also there is little if any room for expansion at the proposed community use secondary school at Pipeland Farm (the catchment area is a significant part of North East Fife and significant housing development is proposed in the catchment settlements).

LDP STA 004: Madras College, Kilrymont
The grant of planning permission in principle (“PPiP”) is the subject of a pending legal challenge. The grant of PPiP does not empower the construction of the proposed community use secondary school at Pipeland Farm.
The specified alternative uses which offer scope to re-use the existing listed buildings should be preferred uses. Class 10 use as a college campus would also be an acceptable use – as a replacement for Elmwood College or otherwise.

The preferred use for housing is apparently based on the demolition of existing listed buildings. If that is the case then it should be stated. Further housing use should be considered only if it is established that all of the uses which offer scope to re-use the existing building are ruled out. It is also noted that no indication is given about the estimated number of houses provided and no indication is given of the housing mix (state/private) housing.


LDP STA 005: Madras College, South Street
The grant of PPiP is the subject of a pending legal challenge. The grant of PPiP does not empower the construction of the proposed community use secondary school at Pipeland Farm.

It is envisaged that there will be a mix of uses – not restricted to but indicatively Use Classes 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Given Fife Council’s failure to properly manage and maintain Madras College it is anticipated that there may be a temptation to allow the highest value uses or an inappropriate intensity of such uses.

Queen’s Terrace is unsuitable for HGVs and is a wholly unsuitable vehicular access to the site. Queens Terrace represents a roundabout route which will not be the desired way for much vehicular traffic. These serious drawbacks of this site for intensive development should be acknowledged in the plan.

There will be great local objection to any future commercial and/or residential plans for this site. This is a Grade A listed building and part of St Andrews’ – and indeed Scotland’s – educational heritage. It should be kept, as intended by its founder, Andrew Bell, in educational use in the future.



STA 013: Pipeland Farm
The PPiP is the subject of a legal challenge.

The stated area of 12.8ha exceeds the area (12.7ha) which has PPiP. An audit of the proposed site allocated and the PPiP site should be undertaken.

It is inappropriate to take the site out of the St Andrews Green Belt and to include the site within the urban envelope. Granting planning permission for development in the Green Belt does not mean that the site should be excised from the Green Belt. Planning permission has recently been granted for development in the green belt at Feddinch and this did not lead to the relevant land being taken out of the Green Belt.

The proposals for the eastern boundary will not establish a defensible Green Belt boundary. Fife Council, despite what it says, is apparently content to pave the way for further development on the southern hillside.

Unlike Madras South Street and Kilrymont, Station Park is not identified as a development opportunity. The narrative regarding the proposed community use school at Pipeland Farm is that all curricular and extra-curricular activities will be carried out on site at Pipeland Farm. This appears to be highly improbable due to the limited spectator areas for many of the pitches and the poor provision when compared to Station Park The inaccessibility or difficulty of access for many of these pitches offends against legally inclusive design principles. If it is intended to retain Station Park as playing field how will this open space be managed and maintained? If it is intended to sell off Station Park the Council should be open and transparent about its intentions.

Sandra Thomson, Company Secretary, STEPAL, and on behalf of

Mary Jack, Company Chairperson, STEPAL,
Lindsay Matheson, Company Treasurer, STEPAL

December 2014

 

 


Initial Response  to FIFEplan – DPEA Reference LDP-250-5
Further Information Request 88
Issue 16 St Andrews Area

Response to Information requested
This initial response is based on information currently in the public domain.

Executive Summary:

PPIP for a new secondary school at Pipeland Farm was quashed by the Court of Session on 18th March 2016. It was quashed because Fife Council as planning authority proceeded on the basis Pipeland Farm was the only available site, when in planning terms they should have considered whether the existence of other sites more suitable in planning terms meant Pipeland Farm should be refused.

Pipeland Farm’s inclusion in the draft FIFEplan is a result of the same confusion between educational need and planning suitability that led to the PPIP being quashed. Having PPIP was the most significant factor in it being included in the draft FIFEplan. Now that it no longer has PPIP the draft FIFEplan should be amended to remove Pipeland Farm, and consequential changes made. To allow Pipeland Farm to remain in the draft FIFEplan on the basis of a PPIP that should not have been granted would allow Fife Council to take advantage of its own wrong.

The current draft FIFEplan would create a presumption in favour of development at the Pipeland Farm site; that is absurd in relation to a site that is admitted as having been included despite being significantly contrary to other FIFEplan policies. Given the significant adverse visual and environmental impacts of development at this site (STA013), which falls within Green Belt land, the correct approach should be to remove it from the plan. Its suitability can then be tested, based on evidence produced in the ordinary course of consideration of a planning application.

Background

Following the Planning Permission In Principle (“PPIP”) for a replacement Madras College at Pipeland Farm (Fife Council reference 13/02583/EIA) being quashed as unlawful by the Inner House of the Court of Session on 18th March 2016 the Council stated that it would not appeal the Inner House’s judgment. The time for appeal has now passed. The Inner House’s judgment is therefore final and not subject to review. The judgment is referred to for its whole terms.

The central point that led to the decision being quashed was that the planning authority proceeded on the basis that Pipeland Farm was the only available site; but they did so because alternative sites had been ruled out on educational, rather than planning grounds: see, for example, paragraphs 39 to 41 of the judgment.

In quashing the PPIP the Inner House’s interlocutor remitted “
...the whole matter back to Fife Council for reconsideration”.

On 22nd April 2016, the Council advised the applicant by letter that they have reopened the planning file and that they are considering how to proceed.

A Report by the Executive Director of Education due to be considered by the Council’s Executive Committee on 10th May 2016 notes:

“the intention of the Education & Children’s Services Directorate, on behalf of the Education Authority, is to pursue the planning application for the Pipeland site.”

but acknowledges

“[i]t will take some time for the Planning Authority to review the information submitted with the [2013] planning application and decide what further information requires to be provided ... to allow for its reconsideration.”

DISCUSSION

It is simply not possible at present to say, one way or another, whether the process of appraisal on planning grounds will result in a conclusion by the planning authority, carrying out its duty as defined by the court decision, that Pipeland Farm is the only suitable site for the school. It is not even possible to say that it will be determined within the lifetime of the emerging FIFEplan.

The justification offered for the inclusion of STA013 is found at p.16 of the Pre-Examination Plan, para.61:

“The importance of the St Andrews green belt is underpinned by TAYplan and the policies in this Plan. The new secondary school to be built at Pipeland to replace Madras College has been an exceptional proposal justified by community needs and does not open the remainder of the green belt to unjustified development. The Plan also provides planning guidance on the re-use of the existing Madras College sites at South Street and Kilrymont once the new school is built.” [bold added]

The highlighted section displays the same confused approach that led to the PPIP being quashed. The inclusion of STA013 is said to be because of community need. But the community need is for a new secondary school. The community need is not for a new secondary school at Pipeland Farm. The site for the new school must be selected according to planning policy, not educational need.

It is also classed as an “exceptional proposal”. This is an acceptance that it has been excepted from - in other words, accepts it was significantly contrary to - other policies in FIFEplan.

The draft FIFEplan removes the 2012 Local Plan’s allocation of land for a school on a location at North Haugh, which was included in the Adopted Local St Andrews and East Fife Local Plan (2012). No reason is given in the draft FIFEplan narrative why land at STA001 is
unsuitable - it simply drops out of the picture. Pipeland Farm was presented as a necessary exception because there was no alternative. It is, in our view, a fait accompli of the sort criticised by the Inner House.

The only other justification in the draft FIFEplan is in the additional material notes to STA013, stating that it has PPIP (which it no longer has).

From the above it is evident that the proposal in the draft FIFEplan to remove Pipeland Farm from the Green Belt, if adopted, would enable the Council to avoid the implications of the judgment of the Court and build a school at Pipeland Farm without meeting any of the policy restrictions relating to the Green Belt which it had failed to meet in the quashed application.


Relevant Issues in Relation to the Council’s Proposal to remove the Pipeland Farm Site from the Green Belt

As there is no extant planning permission for a school at Pipeland Farm, and the proposal to remove draft FIFEplan site (STA013) from the Green Belt, relies totally on a school being built there, it is submitted that there is currently no justification for this proposal and no clear prospect that there could be a school built at Pipeland Farm within the time frame of the current plan.

There is also no clear prospect, if the Court judgement is properly applied in assessing a new application, that an assessment of alternative sites would result in the selection of Pipeland Farm. The Executive Committee report of 10th May 2016 also notes that a statutory Educational Consultation may be required (and reported on by Education Scotland) before a new or renewed PPIP and subsequent AMSC planning applications could be submitted.

The 2012 adopted Local Plan Fife incorporated the examining reporter’s recommendation that Pipeland Farm be incorporated as part of the St Andrews Green Belt. In making this recommendation the Reporter considered the Fife Council commissioned and approved 2003 report by Alison Grant (‘Landscape Capacity Assessment and Proposed Green Belt Study of St Andrews’). Additionally the Reporter’s recommendation, incorporated into the adopted plan, specifically removed proposed development from a lower part of the site adjacent to the community hospital (designated at that time as STA005)
“as it would be detrimental to the landscape setting of St Andrews”.

The PPIP and ARC planning reports for the Pipeland Farm school development acknowledge the substantial adverse environmental and visual impacts of major development on this site, while an internal Fife Council report not made public during the planning application process criticises the concept of a school on this site and comments adversely on the design of the school for this sensitive location.

It is significant that the Inner House judgment noted that the decision-making councillors had been misled by the PPIP planning report in relation to its conclusion that Pipeland Farm was the only site option available for the school. There are potential urban sites for the new school, which are consistent with the development plan and which would cause significantly less environmental harm than the proposed school development at Pipeland Farm.

It should be noted that the Development Plan Proposals for Site STA013 in the draft FIFEplan makes no reference to the intention to remove this site from the Green Belt, nor does it provide any justification for this proposal. That can only be discovered by examining the maps provided with the plan documents.

The proposed boundaries which would result from the removal of the Pipeland Farm site would not, as good practice dictates, be based on natural features and would result in a perimeter which would not be defensible. Currently the settlement boundary/greenbelt inner boundary is based significantly on the 40 metre contour.

If the proposal to remove the Pipeland Farm site from the Green Belt was adopted in the present context, the possibility of any future development of the Pipeland Farm (STA013) site for other uses would be facilitated, should a school there not materialise. There is the prospect of other development, including housing, being assessed against a development plan context for a settlement site. Para.61 of the draft FIFEplan, above, claims it
“does not open the remainder of the green belt to unjustified development” [bold added]. Use of the qualification “unjustified” before “development” suggests that the council anticipate allowing further development - otherwise they would have said that it did not open the remainder of the green belt “to development”. It is therefore obvious that the inclusion of Pipeland Farm sets a dangerous precedent. Once development occurs in Green Belt, and Landscape Character is already lost, it is much easier to “justify” additional development.

Consequential changes

In addition to Pipeland Farm (STA013) there are a number of other local plan sites which merit being reassessed in the context of the FIFEplan examination, following the Inner Court decision:

  • The allocation of existing school land at Madras College, Kilrymont (STA004) for development, including housing, following the construction of a school at Pipeland Farm. This location is a candidate site which may be considered in the context of a reassessment of potential sites for the school. It would be sensible not to foreclose this option

  • The allocation of the existing Madras College ‘A’ listed school, building and adjacent land at South Street (STA005) for potential uses including housing consequent upon the construction of the school at Pipeland Farm. This is also a potential candidate site for a replacement school. Both Madras South Street and Kilrymont are to be refurbished and will remain in use for some considerable time. Neither school is available for development at present or in the foreseeable future.

  • The proposed Removal of the designation of land at North Haugh (STA001) in the 2012 Local Plan for a school – this area being identified by the Reporter carrying out the Local Plan Examination, as being sensible to retain as an option. It is adjacent to the Madras College’s present playing fields at Station Park, noted by the Council to be retained in active use.

It is submitted that the correct approach is to proceed on the basis that following the Court judgment there is no justification for the proposed FIFE plan allocations in relation to these sites. Rectifying this would involve the deletion of proposed FIFEplan sites STA013, STA004 and STA005 and amending the St Andrews settlement plan to show the Green Belt boundary/ settlement boundary as shown in the Adopted St Andrews and East Fife Local Plan (2012). The current (2012) designation of an option for a school in STA001 at the North Haugh should be retained.

This approach would return these sites in the proposed FIFEplan to the position prior to the, unlawful, Fife Council 16th May 2014 grant of planning permission in principle for a school at Pipeland Farm and allow them to be considered in the context of the full appraisal of alternative sites required by the Inner House of the Court of Session judgment.

Conversely, a decision to allow these proposed changes to the adopted St Andrews and North East Fife Local Plan would provide a route for the council to avoid assessing any new applications for this site, whether a school or not, against Green Belt policies.

Because of the uncertainties inherent in Fife Council’s present position in relation to their future management of the Pipeland Farm application and in the absence of the Council’s reasons for their proposal to remove site STA001 from the draft FIFEplan and the alterations to the designations of other sites noted in this response, it is not possible to provide a comprehensive response to Further Information Request 88 at this stage. STEPAL therefore will reserve its definitive response until the following stage of the Further Information Request process when Fife Council’s position in relation to these issues becomes known.

Sandra Thomson,
Secretary

for STEPAL 9th May 2016

 



Further Response

FIFEPlan – DPEA Reference LDP-250-5
Further Information Request 88
Issue 16 St Andrews Area

Response to the Information Requested
The Fife Council submission received by DPEA on 9th May 2016 has prompted this further response which should be read in the context of the submission provided by STEPAL on 9th May 2016.

Executive Summary
It is noted that that in its response Fife Council is no longer maintaining its position that the proposed FIFEplan site STA 013 should be excluded from the St Andrews Green Belt. It has adopted a position that it could be included or excluded but they consider that it should still be designated as a site for a proposed school.

It is considered that the proposed options of removal of STA 013 from Green Belt and inclusion in the settlement boundary and any proposal to identify it as a site for the school in the Local Plan would be against the letter and spirit of the Court Judgment noted in initial submission made by STEPAL.

This further submission provides a critique of the statements provided by the Council in support of its position and concludes that no substantive case has been made by Fife Council to support its proposal to remove site STA 013 from Green Belt. It also comments on the Council’s proposed changes to FIFEplan sites STA 001, STA 004, and STA 005. The first part of this submission follows the structure of Fife Council’s response.

The Court’s Decision
We consider that the reference in this section should for accuracy provide the text of the Interlocutor rather than the Court’s opinion in relation to the decision made. Critical issues not mentioned are that the planning permission for a school at Pipeland Farm was quashed and the whole matter referred to Fife Council for reconsideration.

It is considered that the last bullet point in this section of the Council’s response is not a reasonable interpretation of the Court’s judgment. The suggestion that the Court has stated that compulsory purchase for a school site can only be effected for
“land identified in the local plan for the proposed purpose” is incorrect and is not supported by the legislation about compulsory purchase by public authorities. Compulsory purchase is not limited to land so identified in the Development Plan.

There are a number of sites previously identified by the local authority as potential sites for the school and other potential sites may exist. To limit the search for a site using the criteria which the Council incorrectly attributes to the Court would place unnecessary restrictions on the site selection process.

The narrative in the last paragraph in this section contains an apparent paradox. It does not seem feasible that the Council could pursue what is described as a planning application for building a school at Pipeland Farm while, within the same application, complying with the Court Judgement and Fife Council’s own statement about assessing
“all alternative ‘suitable’ sites” before arriving at a conclusion on which site to pursue a planning application. The “suitable” requirement is not explained by the Council but the Court judgement has clearly defined the respective roles and responsibilities of the applicant and planning authority in determining suitability.

While Fife Council have promised a fair and transparent process in arriving at its chosen option, it seems unlikely that the process identified by the Council would be seen by the average citizen as meeting these criteria.

The last paragraph of this section also notes that the matter is to be considered in a report to the Council’s Executive Committee on 10th May.

Although the minute of the Executive Committee is not available at the time of writing, it is understood that the recommendations as made in this report were not supported by the committee which added a requirement that all site options should be assessed. This decision, if confirmed by the published minute, would further reinforce the view that the current planning application for Pipeland Farm is not a suitable vehicle for taking the school project forward.

Additionally the recommendation as amended by the Executive Committee (if confirmed by the minute) would give no support for the Council’s suggestion in their submission that Site STA 013 should be identified as a site for the school.

As the Council’s proposals are solely based on a school which has no planning permission and could only achieve this status after all other sites had been assessed on the basis of a comparative assessment of their planning implications it would go against common sense and natural justice if the Council’s proposals were to prevail in the new circumstances following the court decision.

In these circumstances retaining a site in the Green Belt for a school which has no planning consent together with the reported preference of the Council (rather than the Education Authority of the Council) to pursue the application for a school at Pipeland Farm would appear to indicate predetermination.

Planning Policy Context
It is acknowledged that the proposed FIFEplan contains a proposal for a school at Pipeland Farm. It is important to note that this designation was made following the PPIP planning permission being granted by the Council and while the matter was before the Court for Judicial review. The quashing of the planning permission produces a radically new situation which the Council’s submission does not address.

The prospective changes to FIFEplan Green Belt Policies mentioned in Fife Council’s submission do not provide any additional arguments in favour of the Council’s proposals in relation to Pipeland Farm.


Environmental Issues which would arise from locating the school at Pipeland Farm
A relevant issue that requires consideration is the abundant evidence that a school at Pipeland Farm would cause serious environmental damage. In support of this assertion the following specialist assessments are noted:

  1. The Landscape Capacity Assessment and Proposed Green Belt Study of St Andrews by Alison Grant, produced on behalf of Fife Council in 2003, notes that this part of the southern hillside is Category 5, a designation which renders it inappropriate for development because of its potential impact on scenic quality and visual attributes of St Andrews and its setting (the extracts from the report are provided as Annex 1).
     

  2. The Report of Examination of the 2012 Local Plan which recommended removal of proposed development from a small area of the Pipeland Farm site (at that time designated STA 005) where the Reporter also commented on the unsuitability of the remainder of the Muir landholding on the southern hillside for development. Proposed development for STA 005 was removed from this site in the adopted Local Plan and the whole Muir landholding in this area incorporated into Green Belt in the Local Plan (the extract of the Examination Report is provided as Annex 2).
     

  3. A report by the Council’s Urban Design Team prepared for the PPIP application. It was not submitted to the decision-making councillors nor made available to the public or recognisably summarised in the PPIP planning report. It stated:

    “The issue of cumulative visual impacts is highly relevant. Development of the Pipeland site for Madras College would not be seen as an extension of the urban form/expansion of St Andrews as a settlement because of its location (directly adjacent to the existing built edge and close to a key arrival point) and the nature of the development in conjunction with hospital site and supermarket beyond [which are not in the Green Belt]. This would reduce the extent of the Green Belt in public perceptions, irrespective of whether its status remained as part of the Green Belt and would lead to further concerns over the progressive loss of St Andrews valued landscape setting” (the Urban Design Team Report is provided as Annex 3).
     

  4. It should be noted that development on the major gateways to the town is also governed by the policies contained in the St Andrews Design Guidelines, which has the status of Supplementary Guidance. The text and guidelines on pages 16 to 18 are particularly relevant (the St Andrews Design Guidelines document is provided as Annex 4).
     

  5. An independent report by Optimised Landscape Consultants produced on behalf of the St Andrews Preservation Trust submitted as part of their PPIP objection. It provided a detailed assessment of the applicants’ LVIA report and concluded that the adverse landscape and visual impact of the school had been substantially understated. The full objection is provided for context (the document is provided as Annex 5).
     

  6. The response by statutory consultee SNH to the PPIP planning application in which concern is expressed about the impact on the environment of a school at Pipeland Farm and the precedent for further development this would represent (the report is provided as Annex 6).

A number of these issues were not covered in the PPIP planning report or were covered inadequately. It is submitted that these errors and omissions, together with the other failures identified by the Court of Session Inner House judgement, means that no reliance can be placed upon the EIA assessment made in respect of the Pipeland Farm site. The EIA information presently available does not therefore provide a sound environmental basis for any proposal to allocate Pipeland Farm as a site for the school.

FIFEplan Sites STA 001, STA 004 and STA 005
The Fife Council Executive Committee’s 10th May 2016 decision that all site options should be assessed in accordance with the Judicial Review decision adds further emphasis to the point made in the STEPAL Initial Response. This says that in order that a full assessment of alternative sites can be carried out it is important that the above sites be retained in their current designations. All these sites are included on Fife Council’s list of alternative sites for the school. It would be inappropriate and counter-productive to change their designations on the basis of a quashed planning consent and reduce choice in relation to site selection.

A further point is relevant to the proposed FIFEplan allocations for Site STA 005 (Madras College, South Street). While any designation for this site is premature, for the reason given above, Historic Scotland requested that the future use of this site as well as Site STA 004 (Kilrymont) should be considered in the context of the planning application for the new school.

The important contribution that the ‘A’ listed South Street building makes to the ambience of the St Andrews Conservation Area cannot be overstated.

It is noted that continued educational use for the South Street building (the curtilage of which includes the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Blackfriars Chapel) is not identified as an option in the FIFEplan narrative.

However it is noted in a response to a DPEA information request that this use could be considered within the Development Framework for the site. An estimate of between £5million and £7million has been made for the refurbishment of this neglected building to a suitable standard. Given the stated interest expressed in acquiring this building by St Andrews University, who have the capacity to refurbish this building to a suitable standard and a track record of caring for other historic built heritage in the town, it is submitted that continued educational use should be the first option considered for this building if and when it is eventually vacated. This issue is sufficiently important to be dealt with in the FIFEplan rather than be left for a future development framework.

Concluding Comments
The proposed amendments to the adopted Local Plan in relation to site STA 013 are driven purely by the wish of the Council’s administration to build a school at Pipeland Farm. No coherent arguments have been made in planning terms for this choice. The adverse environmental impacts, if this amendment to the adopted local plan was allowed are well documented in the Council’s planning report for the PPIP application but emphasised with more force in the assessment of the Council’s own Urban Design Team. SEPA did not question the Council’s assessment that this was the only available site but nevertheless in its response to the PPIP planning application confirmed the views of the Urban Design Team and further raised concerns about the precedent which would be established by major development on this site.

The consequential amendments to the status of Kilrymont (STA 004), Madras South Street (STA 005) and North Haugh (part of STA 001) are premature and would limit Fife Council in its intention to assess all the alternative sites (including others not already identified). Additionally, sites STA 004 and STA 005 are not currently available for development, nor likely to be within the lifetime of the emerging FIFEplan.

For the reasons noted in this submission and the initial STEPAL response it is submitted that there is no planning case for allowing the proposed amendments, that they should be deleted and the current designations confirmed.

Sandra Thomson

Director

For STEPAL

16th May 2016


Annexes were attached as follows:
 

Annex 1 St Andrews Landscape Capacity Report
Annex 2 Extracts from St Andrews and North Fife Local Plan Examination Report February 2012
Annex 3 URBAN DESIGN FOI 2A R
Annex 4 c64_StAndrewsDesignGuidelinesWeb
Annex 5 OPEN Landscape Assessment contained in ST ANDREWS PRESERVATION TRUST response to PPIP app
Annex 6 SCOTTISH_NATURAL_HERITAGE-response to PPIP 13_02583_EIA

 
 

 

For reference the response made by Fife Council is reproduced here:

Further Information Request 88 - Issue 16 St Andrews Area

Proposal STA 013 (Pipeland Farm).


Background

The representations and the council’s response to them refer to the legal challenge to the council’s
decision to grant planning permission in principle for a new secondary school and associated
facilities at land to the north of Pipeland Farm, Largo Road, St Andrews. The Extra Division, Inner
House, Court of Session issued its decision on the legal challenge on 18 March 2016, and quashed
the council’s decision as unlawful.

Information requested

Parties are requested to set out their views on the implications for the proposed plan, including the
allocations at STA 013, STA 004 and STA 005, of the decision of the court to quash the planning
permission in principle for the proposed secondary school at Pipeland Farm.
 


Fife Council Response

The Court’s decision

The planning permission in principle application to build a school within the green belt was
challenged by The St Andrews Environmental Protection Association Limited (STEPAL) and has been
the subject of a judicial review. On appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session, the Court’s
opinion concluded that the planning permission in principle was unlawful.

The main issues raised in the decision of the Inner House of the Court of Session concerned the more
stringent policy test applicable in a designated green belt and how those tests were applied with
regard to other sites that might have been suitable or available for a secondary school.

Relevant points from the judgement in relation to this Further Information Request are:-

  • The Planning Authority must make a clear decision separate from the Council’s other role as
    Education Authority and any criteria used by the Education Authority to select a site would
    not be the over-riding test.
     

  • The Planning Authority must consider whether there is a “satisfactory alternative” which is
    consistent with the development plan and causes significantly less environmental harm. This
    satisfactory alternative need not be equal to the application proposal in all respects.
     

  • The Planning Authority must give “its own mind” to the list of alternative suitable sites but
    with regard only to planning considerations. Whilst the applicant’s criteria are not to be
    ignored, they cannot be the decisive criteria.
     

  • When the Planning Authority has to take into account other sites that are available, the
    availability test could include the power of the Council to compulsory purchase land identified
    in the Development Plan for the proposed purpose.

The court judgement indicates that less weight should be given to the requirements set by the
applicant (the Education Authority) and that any site that could provide a “satisfactory” secondary
school development should be assessed, with greater weight being given to its planning policy or
environmental benefits/dis-benefits. The judgement of the court implies that the existence of any
alternative site (delivering an education facility of a different scale or permutation) that would cause
less harm in policy or environmental terms should be the preferred option.

The effect of the Court decision is to remove the decision to grant planning permission in principle,
thus returning the planning application file to a point in time before that decision was made. The
Planning Authority has therefore re-opened the case file and re-commenced the processing of the
application. The proposal must also be reconsidered in light of the current policy context.
Fife Council’s Education and Children’s Services Directorate has stated in a report that will go before
Fife Council’s Executive Committee on 10 May 2016 the intention of the Education & Children’s
Services Directorate, on behalf of the Education Authority, to pursue the planning application for the
Pipeland Farm site (Committee Report attached as an appendix - Exec Comm report 10 May 2016. A
copy of the minute of the meeting will be sent to reporters in due course).

Planning policy context

The application for planning permission in principle (13/02583/EIA) was determined in April 2014,
prior to the publication of the Proposed Local Development Plan.

The Proposed Plan includes the proposal for a replacement school at Pipeland Farm (STA 013). This
proposal reflects the approved planning applications (planning applications 13/02583/EIA and
14/02249/ARC) for the site at the time the Proposed Plan was prepared.

The Proposed Local Development Plan includes green belt policy through Policy 9 ‘Green Belt’.
Schedule 4 Issue 2f sets out Fife Council’s response to comments received to the Proposed Plan
consultation and invites the examination reporters to consider a number of amendments to Policy 9.
The current Scottish Planning Policy was published in June 2014. It places the responsibility on Local
Development Plans to describe the types and scales of development appropriate. Similar to Scottish
Planning Policy 2010 it allows scope for development in the green belt for development meeting a
national requirement or established need, if no other suitable site is available.

Implications of the Court’s decision for STA 013 (Pipeland Farm)

Reports by Education Scotland and predecessors from 2006 onwards have highlighted the
weaknesses of the current buildings and difficulties of providing efficient and effective education
with the split site. The dispersed nature of the school buildings and facilities for sports and physical
education has been identified as having a negative impact on learning and teaching. These reports
illustrate the urgent need to identify and deliver a replacement school which is fit for purpose.

Since 2008 and following a sequence of events in which Council Committees were tasked with
addressing the site selection for a new school by the Education Authority, extensive work in
assessing alternative sites and options for a replacement secondary school has been undertaken.
This has involved a corporate approach to a site assessment process in which up to 13 different
options were roundly assessed taking account of criteria such as constraints to development,
deliverability by August 2015, education, community impact, viability, site ownership, planning
policy, transport, environment and sustainability, and school and community impact during the
transitional phase of the new school being built.

Pipeland Farm was eventually selected as the preferred site for the replacement of Madras College.
Green Belt policy requires it to be demonstrated that no other suitable site is available. The
Environmental Statement for the planning permission in principle application concluded that
Pipeland was the only suitable site available for Madras College, the new school.

There is an identified need for a new fit for purpose replacement school and the Planning Authority
view it as essential that the Local Development Plan should identify a site to support that need. In
view of the assessments to date, it is the view of the Planning Authority that a proposal for a
replacement secondary school at Pipeland Farm should be retained within the Local Development
Plan. The planning application is live and the Planning Authority is currently considering the new
information which the applicant will require to submit for the application to be assessed.

The Planning Authority recognises the continued uncertainty this brings for the community
regardless of whether they are in support or against the proposal for a new school at Pipeland Farm.
Recognising the identified need and other factors above, it would be open to the Reporter to retain
the Pipeland Farm site, either outwith or within the green belt designation. The ‘Status, additional
developer requirements, and other information’ text within the Local Development Plan should be
amended to state that the proposal for a new school at Pipeland Farm is dependent on the outcome
of a planning application. If the Reporter chose to retain the School site but do so outwith the
settlement boundary and within the green belt, this would avoid establishing the principle for other
development, should planning permission not be granted for a new school at Pipeland Farm.

Sites STA 004 and STA 005

Sites STA 004 and STA 005 were identified as Development Opportunities in the Proposed Local
Development Plan reflecting the planning applications that had at that time been approved for the
Pipeland Farm. They would come forward as development opportunities once the development of a
school at Pipeland Farm started. The development plan strategy is not reliant on the sites coming
forward for development, and the sites have not been identified as contributing to the housing
requirement. These sites retain their established use in the circumstance that there is no planning
permission for the new school at Pipeland and the development opportunity status would need to
be removed. Should planning permission be granted for Pipeland Farm, STA004 and STA005 will
become development opportunities once a replacement school is occupied. The planning Authority
considers that the relevant text within the Local Development Plan should reflect this.

The following factual amendments to sites STA 004 and STA 005 are recommended:

STA004

Amend first paragraph of ‘Status, additional development requirements, and other information’ to
read:

Planning Permission in Principle has been granted for a new single-site replacement for
Madras College at Pipeland Farm. Once that is constructed the Kilrymont site will become
available as a development opportunity
. Fife Council’s Education Service is committed to the
delivery of a replacement school for Madras College. In the event that this site becomes
surplus to requirements the following developer requirements will apply: …

STA005

Amend first paragraph of ‘Status, additional development requirements, and other information’ to
read:

Planning Permission in Principle has been granted for a new single-site replacement for Madras
College at Pipeland Farm. Once that is constructed
Fife Council’s Education Service is committed to
the delivery of a replacement school for Madras College. In the event that this site becomes surplus
to requirements
the South Street site will become available as a development opportunity for town
centre related uses compatible with the main building’s listed status and prominent location in the
central conservation area. The Council will promote an international design competition for the
redevelopment proposal.

 


October 2016

DPEA has published their report on this plan.

The full report (>1100 pages) is here:
https://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/Document.aspx?id=404428

St Andrews is covered in pages 908 - 964

The full recommendations (83 pages) are here:
https://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/Document.aspx?id=404429

St Andrews area recommendations are on pages 72-74

 


 

 



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