A Twenty-first Century Vision for a New Secondary School

Serving the Madras Catchment Area
 

 

 

Madras College, founded by Dr Bell in 1833, pioneered a new concept of education which was widely admired by educators in Scotland and wider afield.

The New Madras should be planned with equal foresight and ambition to provide a school fit for education in the 21st Century.

 

South Street building

     

North Haugh Site

 

We identify below a set of principles which should guide decisions in planning the new school.

  • It should be equally accessible to all pupils in its catchment area and enable all parents to have easy contact with teaching and support staff;
     
  • It should be located so as to encourage community use and provide for citizens of all ages and income levels;
     
  • In order to provide the widest access to learning resources and build on existing links with the University, it should be within easy reach of these facilities;
     
  • It should provide an environment, both within and outwith the building which will encourage pupils to participate in learning;
     
  • In order to encourage sport and physical activity it should have sports provision of the highest standard utilising current outdoor sports facilities in order to make economical use of the scarce land resources in St Andrews;
     
  • As a contribution to tackling global warming and climate change, it should have impeccable green credentials and reduce rather than increase damage to the environment.

 

Why is building at Pipeland not the answer?
The proposal for a new school at Pipeland Farm fails to meet most of the principles identified above. It is situated on the wrong side of the town for two thirds of its pupils who have by far the longest travel times. Public transport links are relatively limited and increased car use would be inevitable. Many potential community users without cars would be denied its use.

The school day for pupils would be needlessly extended and their ability to participate in extra-curricular activities curtailed. Children from the Taybridgehead area attending for routine medical or dental appointments are likely to miss a full day of schooling.  Continued dependence on special buses, currently costing almost £1million a year, would waste scarce funds that could otherwise be used for educational purposes.

A school here would not be co-located with other educational resources but with a supermarket and a hospital.
Seventy two unnecessary bus trips each day through the town traffic would contribute to traffic congestion and produce 1000 tonnes of carbon and dangerous particulate emissions each year.


Panoramic view of the southern hillside

If built here the school would occupy a substantial part of the town’s newly established Green Belt and damage the landscape in an area that Government Reporters as recently as 2012 have specifically said, for environmental reasons, should not be built upon. The proposal to build a school on this site is contrary to Fife Council’s own planning policy, is likely to cause serious delays in decision making and could halt the process altogether. The Local Plan was adopted on 5th October 2012, confirming the Green Belt and the statutory Green Belt policy. Fife Council has little option to depart from this Adopted Plan and the Reporters' 740-page decision.

The Pipeland site is owned by the Muir Group, who have been trying to develop the southern hillside for nearly 20 years. lf the school were to be built on this site, it is almost inevitable that housing would follow, and that the southern hillside and our new Green Belt would be lost.

A decision to build here is not in the jurisdiction of Fife Council as it would probably be referred to the Scottish Government as being contrary to planning policy. Construction on this sloping site has never been properly costed and may prove prohibitively expensive. Local traffic congestion around the community hospital, especially in the morning, is inevitable.

 
What might be the Council’s alternative proposal?
It has been suggested that if Pipeland failed to materialise the Council might be inclined to reactivate the discredited Kilrymont option which was their preferred solution during the first educational consultation. This site shares the inaccessibility and many other drawbacks noted above.
 
In addition it would involve costly temporary facilities for pupils as they were decanted to the South Street building for an extended period. Conditions here would inevitably be sub-optimal for the pupils unlucky enough to experience this and outdoor sport would involve further bussing. It is considered that this is too high a price to pay for a school which would meet so few of the principles outlined at the beginning of this leaflet. We believe this would be the worst of all possible solutions and should not be contemplated.


Is there a better solution?
Most people agree that the school should ideally be situated on the western side of town. An available site at the western end of the North Haugh Education Campus has none of the disadvantages described above. It is specifically zoned in the Council’s Adopted Local Plan, endorsed by the Scottish Government, for a replacement Madras school and would not meet any planning obstacles.

Aerial view of the 'Pond Site' and North Haugh Education Campus

Known locally as the “pond site” it has a location which would allow significant numbers of pupils flexible use of service buses which have a daytime frequency of ten minutes, pupils from the Taybridge area (where a “park and choose” interchange is to be created) would have an average journey time of twenty minutes. Pupils from Guardbridge and Leuchars would have the option of cycling to school along a dedicated, safe cycle track. Community Use would be encouraged by easy accessibility for people without cars.
Significant savings could be made in the education travel budget and a greener carbon footprint would be achieved.
 
A school built here would require less land than a school elsewhere as it would be located adjacent to its own extensive sports ground at Station Park. The possibility of educational linkages with university teaching faculties would be greatly enhanced..

Alleged exceptional costs for building here have been greatly exaggerated, based on a report from a south of England firm which never visited the site. A local technical assessment sponsored by the authors of this leaflet which involved a site visit revealed no special problems.  You can view the assessment here.
 
There has been great resistance from the Council to actively assess and pursue this clearly superior option. The reason for this has never been satisfactorily explained.
 

The University have shown  a willingness to sell or exchange this site for the redundant (and potentially expensive to refurbish and maintain) Madras South Street building. Meaningful discussion with the University has never taken place. Given their legal responsibility to seek an alternative beneficial use for the A Listed ‘old’ Madras building this stance is irresponsible. The Council, if it negotiated a mutually beneficial exchange of sites with the University, could in essence obtain the North Haugh site at no cost to the council tax payer. Instead it is proposing to reduce the budget available for building the school by paying a developer £1.8 million (or £60,000 an acre) for 30 acres of agricultural land.
 
 

Following this analysis, the site which should be chosen is clearly identified. A new Madras on the North Haugh Education Campus would meet all the principles outlined above and provide St Andrews and the wider catchment area with a school of which the town can be proud, rather than a poorly planned and badly located building. This would be a visible reminder for the next 50 years of backward thinking and poor decision-making by the education authority and our elected representatives.
 
The North Haugh Education Campus offers a much better alternative, meeting all the principles identified, and can be delivered within budget and a reasonable time frame.
 
This information has been produced as an aid to public information on an important topic affecting the lives of present and future Madras pupils, their parents and the community by the widely representative group:

Campaign for a New Madras Fit for the 21st Century