Statement by Lindsay Matheson, Chair of The Campaign for a new Madras College for the 21st Century

I represent The Campaign for a new Madras College for the 21st Century. This group was formed in September 2012 shortly after the present administration declared its preference to build the replacement Madras College at Pipeland. We want a new school as much as anyone. Our group is broadly based and numbers 119 members, including parents, teachers, community education personnel, former regional and district councillors, senior education leaders with a close continuing interest in the future of the school (including two former Madras rectors who covered 22 of the last 29 years, and two other local rectors), business people, professional people with experience in planning, civil engineering, project management, architecture, quantity surveying, surveying, transport, hydrology, geology, local government and nature conservancy. Representatives of St Andrews Community Council, Preservation Trust and Confederation of Residents’ Associations are also members.

It was my privilege to lead Madras College for ten years up to 2007 and thus the issues facing the current staff in the split-site campus are well-known and familiar. The current Madras staff continues to do well by the pupils in difficult circumstances, and many have done before. The school’s last School Board (to 2007) began campaigning for a replacement Madras. As HT I was in at the start in 2006 when the equation seemed relatively straightforward. Wait for a budget to be allocated. Arrange for the exchange of a green-field site on the west of St Andrews for one of the present campuses, probably South Street with its prime town-centre location. Build the new school to the best modern standard. That was the plan. Once a budget was allocated in 2008 a more complex project emerged. This was very exciting for all concerned and from the sidelines it looked good. Sadly the ambitious scheme foundered. Now, the point our campaign would make is why not return to that original simple concept, to the exchange of the North Haugh site for South Street? There would be mutual advantage in this. The University would acquire a splendid central asset, despite its dilapidated current condition and need for much investment. The Council would acquire a suitable and well-located site for the new Madras College and at the same time find a fitting educational use for the historic Bell bequest that is the South Street campus.

How suitable in educational terms would a school be on the North Haugh? Our group has worked on this aspect for a year and a half, becoming increasingly convinced that the North Haugh case is unanswerable. Our Prospectus last summer pulled together the main arguments and to date has not been rebutted except by inaccurate criticism of the terrain, the site’s suitability and its availability. While this Hearing is not concerned directly with the North Haugh option it is important indirectly since the existence of a valid, indeed superior alternative to Pipeland will be a material consideration for councillors to consider. In this connection you are reminded that the current administration, upon taking up office in 2012, stated that the three criteria for a site for the new Madras were that it should be on the west side of St Andrews, it should be located as near as possible to the University departments and that it should be in Council ownership. It is our firm belief that a North Haugh option would immediately satisfy the first two criteria and that the third would be fully satisfied by the exchange outlined above. Station Park, of course, is in Council ownership already. In contrast, the Pipeland proposal would meet none of the above criteria nor would it provide a solution for the eventual transfer of the South Street campus to an appropriate educational purpose.

We have lodged objections to the Pipeland proposal on grounds such as the breach of the Green Belt and the Development Plan, the unsuitable location of Pipeland to serve the wider catchment of the school and community, the adverse impact on the town, the adverse transport impact, the problematic and expensive creation of limited playing fields on a severely sloping, damp and exposed terrain, the high purchase price for the site, the likely high cost of engineering measures to take account of site-preparation, drainage-management, building elevations and field terraces, the likely planning delays, and the safety issues to do with access and campus-management. We also consider that the lifetime cost of a Pipeland school would greatly exceed one built on a more favoured site such as the North Haugh. We have not seen any official estimate of the anticipated exceptional costs for Pipeland but have conservatively estimated these at approximately £13 million. We consider that a decision, even in principle, should not be made without a comprehensive technical survey and cost-analysis. It would seem sensible for this to be done on the basis of a like-for-like survey of the North Haugh or any similar better-located site than Pipeland.

Finally, we believe that the ten or more “pupil generations” who will be served by the new school should have the best facilities available, with as much of the budget as possible being spent on these rather than on the very substantial preparatory engineering work to fashion a school campus in so unpromising a location. Madras College was founded in 1833 on a bequest by St Andrews-born Dr Andrew Bell. He had become a world figure in educational reform and innovation. Should we not ask ourselves how best we can take forward his vision for the education of our community, and in a way that will stand the test of time as well as his has done?