CSARA ADDRESS TO
THE PREDETERMINATION HEARING - PIPELAND FARM
In this highly divisive and controversial planning application there are
two areas which we can, thankfully, all agree.
I doubt if there is anyone in this theatre who does not accept, or even
enthusiastically support, the need for a new secondary school for the
Madras Catchment Area. But there is also no doubt that a Pipeland location
would offend against numerous local plan policies intended to protect St
Andrews from damaging development.
These policies have only recently been adopted after a long process of
public consultation, an examination in Public by a Government Reporter,
then approved finally by the Council and the Scottish Government. Clearly
these policies should not be lightly cast aside.
While respecting the understandable frustration of many parents with the
extended process to achieve a new school, I would respectfully suggest
that planning policies are not overcome by a popular vote and that members
will be acutely aware that the legitimate needs and interest of the whole
community must be addressed in making planning decisions
In attempting to persuade the Planning Committee that two of these Local
Plan Policies – Development in the Green Belt and on Prime Agricultural
Land - can be put aside, the applicant seeks to make a case that there is
no suitable alternative site throughout the 120 square miles of the
extensive Madras catchment area. Building at Pipeland would result in the
permanent loss of 30 acres of Prime Agricultural Land in the Green Belt.
The third major policy affecting the Pipeland site, Development in the
Countryside does not have any get-out clause related to the absence of an
A major issue for members must therefore be whether the seriously adverse
effects of this development on the environment can be justified by a need
to build the replacement Madras School on this particular site.
An equally important issue is whether a school at Pipeland will best meet
the educational needs of one thousand four hundred children and young
people who will attend it daily over the sixty year lifetime of the
It is useful to look at the original criteria for siting the replacement
Madras, originally identified in 2007 and reiterated by the present Fife
Council administration when they took office.
Firstly, recognising that two thirds of pupils have homes in the
Taybridgehead settlements and smaller communities to the North and West of
St Andrews, the first criterion was that the school should be on the
western side of St Andrews, in order to cut down journey times for the
majority of children. As Madras is a community use school this would also
improve equality of access for the wider community.
Secondly, The site, preferably, would be in the ownership of the Council.
Thirdly. There was an aspiration that the school should be associated with
the University in order to encourage joint approaches to education, and
sharing of facilities.
I do not want to dwell on the disappointing breakdown of negotiations with
the University regarding shared facilities, but it is useful to note how
far away the Pipeland Proposal is from this original vision.
Rather than generalize about this, I would like to give you some detail on
the adverse social and environmental costs of locating the replacement
school at Pipeland.
Nineteen school busses, each making four journeys each day would result in
78 unnecessary journeys though the town on already congested roads and
junctions operating near, at, or over capacity. To this would be added
staff cars, parents dropping off children biomass HGVs and other traffic
generated by the school. Compared to a site on the west of the town, this
will add about fifteen minutes extra travel time each day (or up to 50
hours each year) for those pupils with the longest travel times.
The school if approved would have only one vehicle access through the
hospital access road. School busses and other school traffic would compete
with patients trying to get to their appointments at peak times. The
National Health Service which owns the road has been asked to relocate
parking places some distance away at the top of a steep hill. The NHS and
hospital facilities managers have objected to the application on the
grounds of safety for school children and hazards for their patients.
These problems are insurmountable and it is very unlikely that the NHS
would wish to compromise vital patient services by removing their
objection. This clearly should have been an issue assessed early in the
site selection process, but this application was embarked on with
virtually no assessment of the suitability of the site.
Despite suggestions that these problems can be mitigated, they cannot be
cured and will increase over time as the population of St Andrews grows
with a planned increase in households of about one third over the next
twenty years, and increased numbers of elderly people.
This proposal if agreed would have a serious impact on amenity and quality
of life not only those using hospital services, but also those living in
Patients from all over North East fife will experience difficulty when
attending appointments at the community hospital.
Patients receiving end of life care in the hospice ward and garden
would, instead of having a prospect of a green hillside leading towards
the sea, have this replaced by a car park, large building and biomass
Residents with homes to the north of the site on Scooniehill Road and
Lamberton Place, many elderly, road will have fears about a recurrence of
flooding experienced in recent years exacerbated by building on the
These same residents would live in close proximity to a floodlit
Floodlighting which can affect the health and wellbeing of those living
nearby is classified as a statutory nuisance. Objections about a similar
facility in Cupar caused the proposal to be abandoned.
In order to reduce parent cars using the drop off facility at the school
and further congestion on the Hospital access road, it is assumed that 50%
of these will use Scooniehill Road. It is clear that the congestion on
Scooniehill Road and nuisance to people in this residential area has not
been properly assessed. The Traffic consultants who provided a report in
support of the Education Service’s planning application do not appear to
have confidence in their own as they propose as a backstop that starting
and finishing times for pupils could be staggered,
Scooniehill and Lamberton Place residents would pay a high price for a
decision to build a school at Pipeland on a site which is clearly
inappropriate for this purpose.
Given all the additional serious adverse affects of this development which
I expect other speakers will cover, it is difficult to know why the
Education Service decided to proceed with such an inappropriate, divisive
and damaging proposal on a site, assessed as 7th best on the scoring
matrix produced for the Education and Children’s Services Committee on
10th November 2007.
The Education Service might say in its defence that no other suitable site
is available, but this suggestion cannot be sustained in the light of the
senior council official’s advice to the Leader of the Council, that any
attempt to secure Pipeland through a compulsory purchase order would fail
because there was a viable alternative option, albeit one which was not
acceptable to the current political administration.
He was of course referring to Kilrymont, previously promoted
enthusiastically by education officials. The same statement serves to
demonstrate that the essential test for building on Green Belt and Prime
Agricultural Land - that no other alternative site is available – cannot
However, I do not wish to propose that Kilrymont should be brought back
into the frame as a much more suitable site is available, one which meets
virtually all of the criteria set out by the Education Service at the
outset of the site selection exercise. This is the North Haugh site
offered for straight sale or exchange for the South Street building by the
University. The A Listed South Street Building will in any case be a
serious liability for the Council until a suitable alternative use is
found for it. Historic Scotland has emphasized the need for this to be
addressed within the planning application.
The benefits of the North Haugh site are obvious. It is adjacent to the
school’s own excellent and extensive sports field at Station Park. The
Council therefore already owns most of the land required for the school
and could obtain the adjacent North Haugh site at a cost equivalent to
buying Pipeland and relocating the gas main on this site which would have
to be removed and replaced at a cost of £1.5 million. Other exceptional
costs attributed to the North Haugh site have been found not to be
supported by the facts. After extensive inquiry, no evidence has been
found that the University would expect the Council to contribute £5
million or more for a distributor Road. By comparison, exceptional costs
for Pipeland have been estimated to be in the region of £13million
The Education Service have suggested the North Haugh site that it is
unaffordable because its purchase cost would not meet Legal Best Value
criteria. This is incorrect. Audit Scotland make it clear that Best Value
applies to the total cost of a project over its lifetime, not one
particular aspect of the cost of a school such as site acquisition. By
comparison, the price the Pipeland site, together with the £1.5 million
cost of removing and repositioning a major gas main discovered late in the
day, together with the cost of excavating the hillside to accommodate a
much smaller sports facility than that at Station Park, would exceed the
asking price of the much more suitable North Haugh site.
There are no planning problems related to the North Haugh site. It is
zoned for educational, purposes and the Government Reporter who examined
the local plan and specifically removed development from Pipeland on
environmental and landscape grounds stated that it would be sensible to
retain the North Haugh site for the replacement Madras. This site is of
course adjacent to the major housing area planned for the town
In addition the North Haugh site would be easily accessed by a ten minute
bus service from its main catchment and would encourage community use from
this area. This flexible service would enable savings to be made on the
£1million annual bussing bill for pupils, reduce congestion in the built
up area and help to meet carbon emission targets.
It is stated that Station Park will be retained so there will be a
continuing revue burden for a council trying to balance its budget. This
also demonstrates that all the required facilities for a community use
school cannot be provided at Pipeland.
The narrative which seeks to show that Pipeland is the only suitable
option cannot be sustained. The decision for siting the new school should
be made on land use planning grounds. A key issue is choice of a location
which provides the widest access for its users, can be easily served by
public transport and does not jeopardise the safe and efficient operation
of vital public services.
If North Haugh had been assessed on equal terms to Pipeland it would have
been shown to be a much more straightforward site to develop, more likely
to be delivered quickly and to and have no planning problems.
Members may feel that they are presented with decision to approve a school
Pipeland – the only location currently on offer - or delay once again the
provision of a much needed facility.
Refusing planning permission in principle for Pipeland, on the substantive
grounds I have identified, would not be the end of the story, but the
start of a new and much more exciting chapter in the history of Madras,
and one which I believe could be delivered quickly and gain wide community