A geographical comparison of two sites for the location of the school –
Pipeland to the south, the site at present favoured by Fife Council, and
the North Haugh to the north-west of the town, the site where the school
should be built.
The Pipeland Site stretches east-west on the land bordering
the southern edge of the built-up environment of St Andrews, immediately
to the east of the new hospital.
The North Haugh Site lies to the west of the main A91 on the
north west edge of St Andrews beyond the University development and again
on the outskirts of the town.
Pipeland is slightly further from the town centre - about 1.5km compared
with 1.25km for the North Haugh, although this depends on footpath as
opposed to road distance.
The location of the two sites:
4=North Haugh 7c=Pipeland
From Fife Council
• Relief and Drainage.
The Pipeland Site lies on a slope between 30m and 50m above
sea level, the average gradient over the site being 1:20, although there
are local variations. This area forms the so-called landscape rim of the
town, giving it a setting below the crest of this north-facing slope.
Drainage in this area is mainly by a burn which flows north from the
Grange area, through the grounds of the Madras Kilrymont site and is piped
at various points till it reaches the Kinnessburn. This burn, however,
cannot contain the surface run-off, particularly after a heavy rainfall
event, when water flows overland and reaches Kilrymont road from where it
flows quickly down the road as far as Lamond Drive, taking soil and
boulders with it. Water has been seen to cascade down the slope and down
the driveways of the houses on the south side of Kilrymont Road and thence
down the road itself. When the hospital was being built the water table
was reached (the zone to which the substrata is saturated) when the
building foundations were being set into the hillside. This caused a lot
of water to reach the surface. There is also evidence that there are
intermittent streams which flow from springs along the hillside when the
water table is raised due to rainfall. There have been drainage issues
associated with this slope for a long time and attempts to improve
drainage in this area have been to little effect.
The North Haugh Site lies on a relatively flat area of land
between 5m and 10m above sea level, the average gradient being 1:160. It
has a pond - only 60-70cm deep - which was constructed in the 1980s when
the area was landscaped by the University to deal with an area not
required for development. The present pond area was hollowed out and lined
with clay to contain water which would otherwise have drained away. There
is also the Swilken Burn which flows east, to the north of the pond, then
south parallel to the main road (A91) and is then piped under the road to
surface as the famed burn on the golf course. It is a relatively small
water course but is said to be occasionally, although rarely, affected by
spring tides. It would seem safe to suggest that were such the case,
flooding of the golf course – an area seaward of the North Haugh and
therefore more affected - would have been dealt with as being of special
importance. This has not happened. This area is not regarded by SEPA as
liable to flood.
The Pipeland Site is a north-facing slope of a sandstone
area of land which is covered with glacial boulder clay. Boulder clay is a
heavy material which can absorb water but, with rainfall events, is likely
to compact and become impermeable causing overland flow as described under
‘relief and drainage’. The underlying bedrock – the sandstone and other
carboniferous rocks such as limestone and coal – is slightly porous if
water reaches it but can absorb water only to the water table (the zone
below which the rock is saturated with groundwater) and the water table
frequently reaches the surface. This is a wet hillside.
The North Haugh Site is quite different. This is an area of
raised beach, a platform of coastal land which was below sea level after
the end of the Ice Age when sea levels rose with the melting of the ice
sheets. Subsequent readjustment of the land, when the weight of the ice
was removed and the land level rose, caused such areas to rise above sea
level – hence the ‘raised beaches’. In addition, this area has a sea cliff
– the steep area to the west where the former coastline was. This can be
seen at present as a steep slope covered by trees. Seaward, this area is
underlain by a wave-cut platform – an area of solid carboniferous rocks
which comprise the remnants of the former cliff line. This area has been
built on by the University and photographs taken by R. Duck when New Hall
was being built show the site is solid and dry for building foundation
purposes. Press articles referring to this area as a bog or a swamp are
very misguided and would seem to focus on the pond, which is not a natural
Both areas can be built on. However, it is easier and cheaper to build on
flat land, and land without significant drainage problems.
While the weather over this area is obviously similar, there can be
significant local variations in conditions. Local variations depend on the
aspect of the land (the direction in which it faces) and the alignment
with conditions such as the prevailing wind.
The Pipeland Site is north facing. This means it is cool -
it doesn’t get as much of the available sunlight, and being a west-east
slope means that the prevailing winds (those which blow most often - in
Scotland from the west and south west) will blow along this slope. This
can be verified by the distribution of the rubbish in the Kilrymont school
playground which fetches up in the burn area! It is also affected by the
east winds, although they blow from the opposite direction and less
The North Haugh Site is sheltered by the higher ridge of
land on which the old town of St Andrews is built, and by the old cliff
line from the westerly winds. It faces east, which means it has more
sunlight than the Pipeland area but it is open to easterly winds,
although, as mentioned, they do not blow as often as those from the west.
Local weather conditions are important in that they affect people and
their activities. Activities which could be affected for school pupils are
outdoor sports which could be less comfortable due to the prevailing
westerlies and increased wind chill on the Pipeland site, compared with
the sheltered conditions on the North Haugh site. There is also the
increased cost of heating and other building maintenance in more exposed
• Soils and quality of agricultural land.
The soils in both areas are relatively mediocre from the point of view of
agricultural potential, but for different reasons. Both areas are said to
be composed of prime agricultural land, but this designation applies to
land of qualities 1-3 on the Soil Capability for Agriculture assessment by
the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research. The soils in both areas are at
the bottom of class 3 (land capable of producing a moderate/narrow range
of crops depending on conditions), and although local conditions can and
have been bettered through soil improvement (drainage and fertilisation),
and weather can be controlled by e.g. polytunnels, these areas do not
comprise land which would be considered to be of significant importance
for current agricultural production.
The Pipeland Area is an area of class 3 agricultural
potential being on sloping north-facing land with heavy boulder clay soils
and drainage problems. It is used for the production of cereals and
The North Haugh Area is also an area of class 3 agricultural
potential being on an area of glacial raised beach deposits with
relatively poor quality soils of stony and sandy origin. It is no longer
agricultural land, having been bought and landscaped by the University.
• Planning Controls and Land Ownership.
The Pipeland Site is in the recently designated Green Belt.
The Green Belt was fought for over many years, ultimately granted in
October 2012, and is part of the local and regional plan, now TayPlan.
Planning consent for a new build here could and should be difficult to
obtain. The document (The Adopted St Andrews and East Fife Local Plan
2012, now part of TayPlan) states:
‘In defining the Green belt, the council has decided that its boundary
should endure and not be subject to frequent revisions to meet new
development needs. The Green Belt boundary has been drawn to reflect a
long term settlement strategy and ensure that planned long term growth can
be accommodated. This is necessary to avoid the cumulative erosion of the
integrity of the Green Belt through the approval of individual planning
permissions. Inner boundaries have therefore been drawn to create an area
between the current settlement envelope and the Green Belt suitable to
accommodate planned growth over a 20 year period without the need to
encroach on Green Belt land. The Green Belt therefore sets a context for
the future direction of St Andrews’ growth for at least 20 years.’
This land is owned by the Muir Group who purchased the land in the 1990s
hoping to put up a major development. It is of limited value as
agricultural land but obviously worth much more for development. Muir
would not be able to develop this land for residential use under the Green
The North Haugh Site is in an area designated for
development in the local and regional plan and was and is the site chosen
for a new school in the planning documents. If the western extension to St
Andrews goes ahead – and all indications are that it will - the North
Haugh site for a new school is well placed to take pupils from the new
residential areas of the western extension as well as from the rest of St
Andrews and obviously from the school catchment areas to the north and
west of the town. It would benefit also from access to a new distributor
road in this plan. This land is owned by the University and the value of
this land has been an area of contention, given that a land swap for the
area occupied by the South Street site of Madras College was on offer.
The South Street site of Madras College is of significant value, but the
school, being a listed building, cannot be substantially changed – nor
does it need to be. The acquisition of such a prestigious site would be of
great import to the University and would ensure the appropriate future of
a site of historical and educational importance. Equality of value of each
site is surely of small importance, given the value of each site to the
education of the future pupils and students in St Andrews, as well as to
the rest of the town’s population. In any case, the land to the south of
the listed area of the South Street site of Madras College could be sold
for various types of development to great advantage by Fife Council – land
that was gifted to the council when the school came under local authority
control. The Kilrymont Road site is also of considerable worth for
development of affordable housing, to keep young people of working age in
the town. The population structure of St Andrews is top heavy, with older
groups over represented. More young people are needed to provide the
children of the future to attend the schools.
A new school requires good access from all the areas from which pupils
have to journey to reach it.
The Pipeland Site has easy access from the residential areas
in the southern half of St Andrews, by being adjacent, and some pupils
could walk from that direction via a footpath or along the road from the
north. However, far more pupils now come from west of the A915, from the
Bogward area. The vehicular access is via the roundabout on the A915 which
also serves the hospital. However, access would need to be gained at least
twice daily by more than 15 double-decker buses bringing over 55% of the
school’s pupils from the Wormit and Tayport areas. This additional impact
on the already busy small roundabout which, at the edge of town, serves
the hospital, the supermarket and the general traffic in and out of town
on the busy A915 south would be significant. In addition, many pupils
would either walk or cycle from the Bogward area, adding further to
congestion at the roundabout. At present, pupils from the Kilrymont Road
building walk to Morrisons daily at lunchtime and do not use the
crossings, running across the roads and through the roundabout. Increased
numbers from a larger school would cause greater problems, not only at
lunchtimes but also at morning break times.
Most pupils travelling to the school will come from north of the Eden, and
buses would therefore have to travel through the town to access the
roundabout. This would cause increased congestion and pollution throughout
the town and also in the environs of the hospital. The road network
serving the hospital is already much stressed and parking is a major
problem. Access to a school beyond this already congested area would be
problematical. In addition, the increasing practice of parents driving
pupils to school and parking to collect them at the end of the school day
would also add to the congestion.
Fife’s School Transportation Plan for Pipeland
will make interesting reading.
The North Haugh Site has very different access capabilities
and could well be in a very different future position, given the probable
western development. The building of a new distributor road through this
development could bring pupils from the town e.g. from the residential
area of Bogward, without their having to go through the town centre or
cross busy roads and roundabouts. This site could therefore be accessed
safely from the town by road and footpaths – hence by cars, buses, cycles
and pedestrians – and also from the area from which most pupils will come
by bus, i.e. from the north west via the A91. An access point on this road
which would also serve the distributor road for the town’s western
extension - such as a roundabout - would allow safe and easy access to the
site. Buses bringing pupils from the north west would not need to travel
through the town, saving time, cost and pollution. In addition there is a
ten minute bus service from here to the Newport/Tayport area, which would
provide excellent access to and from this area from which most of the
pupils will come.
A site for a new school would need to ensure adequate parking and turning
facilities for hundreds of vehicles. It is simply not good enough for
planning decisions to be made whereby parking places are limited to
curtail car usage. This has not worked with the new hospital and would not
work with a new school. Traffic to a school involves bus, car, bike and
pedestrian access for pupils, car and other e.g. minibus access by staff
and visitors, and van and lorry access by services. For a school of 1500
plus (this could rise with the addition of an extra 1000+ houses over a 25
year period), this would be very considerable. The North Haugh site would
allow the provision of such facilities at the edge of town, yet with good
access and space for all users.
• Adjacent Land Usage.
The Pipeland Site on the southern edge of town would be
bounded on the north by residential areas, on the west by the hospital and
on the south and east by agricultural land. The only significant positive
interaction between these uses would be between the residential areas to
the north and the school, although most pupils would not be coming from
these areas – only 37% of pupils at Madras College live in the town, and
most of these come from Bogward. There would be problems with the adjacent
hospital use in terms of noise and congestion. An additional conflict
would arise from light pollution. The school area would be used in the
evenings for sports and for community use. Both require lighting and
indeed the flood lighting of pitches is necessary due to our short winter
days. This would not sit well with the adjacent residential and hospital
land uses. Also, as the hospital site is already congested, room for its
expansion would seem to needed in the future which would not be possible
with an adjacent new school.
The North Haugh Site on the north western edge of the town
would initially be bounded by agricultural and woodland to the north and
west, although this could well change to a science or business function
beyond which would be residential development, if the western extension to
the town goes ahead. Pupils from such residential areas would be well
placed to access the school. To the east are University buildings. One of
the initial concepts regarding a new Madras College was the wish for
closer links between the two educational establishments. This site would
facilitate such links, and offer possibilities for shared facilities such
as an Olympic-sized swimming pool mentioned in the original design
specifications for a new school. Both establishments could also share
large halls for assemblies and examinations. To the north east, across the
A91, are the playing fields of Station Park which could be readily
accessed. This would preclude the necessity of cost and space to replicate
such facilities at Pipeland. Evening lighting in this area would have
little effect in that it is not immediately bounded by residential areas
and evening lighting of the adjacent pitches and parts of the golf courses
is well established.
It would appear that a locational setting for such an important school
would be more compatible with current and future adjacent land uses in the
North Haugh area.
• Executive Summary.
Both sites are on the edge of town.
Pipeland is on agricultural and Green Belt land owned by Muir
Construction. The North Haugh is on landscaped University-owned land
zoned for development. The location of the site on the North Haugh would
better serve not only the present and future residential areas of St
Andrews but also the large area of North East Fife from which most
pupils travel to school.
Both areas could be built on. A
hospital has already been built on land to the south of the town but it
must be remembered that the hospital also serves the East Neuk, the area
to the south and east, unlike the school, and is therefore well placed
for its catchment. It would probably be more difficult and expensive to
build on the slope of Pipeland compared with the flat land of the North
Haugh, and it would appear that drainage is more of a problem in the
Pipeland area, despite local perception to the contrary. Both areas are
underlain by similar carboniferous sedimentary rocks which would easily
take the weight of school buildings.
The local weather conditions would
favour the North Haugh as an area sheltered from the prevailing westerly
winds by the ridge of land on which the old part of St Andrews is built,
and having an eastern as opposed to a northern cooler aspect.
For the building of a new school,
soils and quality of agricultural land are of little importance, and
both areas are of similar agricultural value. Farmland lends a most
important and scenic backdrop to the setting of St Andrews and the
Pipeland area was considered to be an important part of the landscape
rim giving the town its unique setting, hence its designation as Green
Belt. The attractive low-lying land of the North Haugh with its pond,
woodland and burn could form a very special site for the construction of
what would be a very prestigious school.
It is quite clear that planning
permission for a school in the Pipeland area should not be given. This
area is Green Belt and therefore supposedly protected. Planning
permission for a school on the North Haugh should be relatively easy,
given the history of the area and the zoning in the current St Andrews
and East Fife Local Plan, adopted in 2012 and now TayPlan. Fife Council
owns neither area but could get the required land on the North Haugh in
a partial land swap with the University for the Madras College South
Street site. Pipeland would cost money which would take away funding
from the building of the new school. It is in the North Haugh that the
new school is placed in the Local Plan already mentioned.
Access to Pipeland is far more
difficult than that to the North Haugh. All kinds of vehicular plus
pedestrian access to Pipeland would encounter major problems, via a
small roundabout which already serves the hospital, the main road (A915)
into St Andrews from the south, and a large supermarket. For the many
buses bringing pupils from outside St Andrews, there would be a journey
through the narrow streets of the town, adding time, cost and pollution.
On the North Haugh, facilities such as an access road, parking and
turning could be provided which would keep a large number of vehicles
out of the town. A new distributor road is already in the Local Plan. In
addition, this area could be used as a park-and-ride facility in the school summer holidays, easing more congestion on the St Andrews road
network. There is also a frequent local bus service from the North Haugh
to North East Fife which would be an excellent link for pupils, staff,
parents and local people using the school community services.
Adjacent similar and compatible land
uses would favour the North Haugh site especially e.g. the University,
with which further links with the school have been discussed, and the
excellent and extensive playing fields across the main road (A91). There
seems little sense in building new playing fields at Pipeland when there
are already superb and greater facilities at Station Park, along with
parking for visitors.
From the geographical analysis
of the features of the two sites, it is clear that the area of the North
Haugh is a far better option for the location of a new Madras College
for the 21st century than that of Pipeland.
Written by Sandra Thomson, former Principal Teacher of Geography
and Head of Social Subjects in Madras College.
The Geology section was produced in consultation with Robert Duck,
Professor of Environmental Geoscience, Dean of the School of the
Environment, and Depute Head of the College of Arts and Social Sciences
at Dundee University.