A Twenty-first Century Vision for a New Secondary School

Serving the Madras Catchment Area

Site Comparison


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.


• Location.

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.


• Geology

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 feature.

Both areas can be built on. However, it is easier and cheaper to build on flat land, and land without significant drainage problems.


• Weather.

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 frequently.

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 conditions.


• 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 vegetables.

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 Belt legislation.

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.


• Access.

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.