Submission by: Dr William Borthwick, CEng, MIMechE,
I was fortunate to be educated at Madras. It prepared me for a fulfilling engineering career starting at Rolls Royce, and ending as co-ordinator of a European Commission programme on urban mobility.
Last year I returned to St Andrews after 27 years absence. It was deeply disappointing to discover that the hard-won Green Belt is already threatened after only two years. Juxtaposing the town’s hallowed spires with a large school complex on the southern hillside just seems grotesque! The carefully staged photo montages are unconvincing - showing a barely visible school on a distant hillside. The human eye is much more dynamic than the camera. This school, complete with biomass chimney would be - to borrow Prince Charles’ words – an unsightly carbuncle on the hillside.
But this is not simply a Green Belt issue. Pipeland does not “support development towards an economic, socially and environmentally sustainable society”. The site drawbacks are manifest:
It would need expensive, engineered solutions for site levelling and flood management;
There is very limited scope for future expansion of either school or hospital;
It introduces avoidable negative environmental and energy impacts due to longer in-town bus journeys and heating a north facing building on an exposed site
It diminishes the educational and sporting opportunities compared to co-location with the university;
There are compelling transport sustainability and safety arguments that make Pipeland a poor choice. Hospital authorities have flagged their concerns over safety, congestion, access and parking. The shared access is too restricted and has poor sight lines for the safe mixing of buses, parents’ and staff cars. The site itself is also too restricted to enable sufficient segregation between vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. On-site traffic management will be problematic and costly. Redirecting some school traffic to the alternative drop-off site will merely displace these problems. Staggering bus travel is impractical for safe site management and unworkable from a timetabling point of view.
The Transport Assessment lacks robustness. Traffic growth trends due to in- and out-of-town developments are insufficiently considered. Peak time traffic congestion could in future be much worse than the 90 car queues predicted. There is very limited space for expanding infrastructure. The introduction of traffic signals at the John Knox Road junction is essential for safety, but unlikely to ease peak time congestion – unless linked to upstream and on-site traffic smoothing measures.
Pipeland would involve 152 additional in-town bus miles daily. These generate direct and external costs including fuel, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and harmful pollutant emissions. Monetising these costs using the European Commission’s Lifetime Cost Calculator (http://www.cleanvehicle.eu/?id=427) shows they are comparable to a teacher’s salary – every year! Around 120 Madras staff travel daily from the Tay area and would also generate an additional 4 in-town miles per car.
Bus convoys would have to negotiate junctions mixed with pupils crossing to Morrisons, students rushing to classes and the elderly living at Rosepark, City Park, Gibson House and Argyle Court - significantly increasing the risk of fatalities involving pedestrians or cyclists during the 50-60 year life of a school. Research has put the Value of a Statistical Life at around £1.4 M.
While these main junctions could be made safer by installing phased traffic lights, the cost could not be justified outside peak s hours. A 20 mph speed limit would certainly be needed on the A915.
A basic engineering design rule is: avoid problems in the first place! Channelling secondary school, retail, hospital and emergency vehicle traffic all in one corridor/district just creates problems.
What then is the solution? Build the school at the A91 western entry to the town and develop a St Andrews transport plan that avoids redistributing the external costs and accident risks. There are good precedents in European towns – safe cycling and pedestrian schemes, better public transport, and car sharing. Less car dependency also delivers health dividends. I therefore urge the Committee to fully explore a once in a lifetime opportunity:
Given the mounting body of expertise that is questioning the appropriateness of Pipeland it is time to carry out more robust comparative assessment of costs, risks and environmental impacts for serious candidate sites. The applicant has not provided sufficient evidence that the Pipeland site is the only, the optimum, or even the “best value” choice to achieve educational and planning objectives.
Finally, no solution is complete without securing the future of the magnificent South Street building that uniquely defines the West end of South Street. Its current condition causes me great sadness.