A Twenty-first Century Vision for a New Secondary School

Serving the Madras Catchment Area
 

 

 

     
Letters to the Press

Our supporters have sent letters to the press during our campaign.  Some were published, others were not.
A selection of these letters appear below.

MADRAS COLLEGE

Fife Council must build a new Madras school.
But it seems it wants to play the fool!
At Kilrymont, Pipelands or the pond site,
On which location will its choice alight?

Kilrymont is on the wrong side of town –
The streets around with traffic it would drown.
Pupils bussed in from the northern quarter
Need a journey that is a lot shorter!

Building of Pipeland is but a pipe-dream!
I cannot think of a crazier scheme!
The land has been designated Green Belt
And to build there would leave an ugly welt!

Some say that the pond site is water logged –
To them I say, “Your brain cells are quite fogged”.
Building on such land is now no big deal,
As the basement with a tank you can seal.

The pond site a great advantage yields –
It’s right across from Madras playing fields!
I suggest that no money needs to change hands.
Do excambion – an exchange of lands.

Colin McAllister
 

RUMOURS

On April 17th intrigued by rumours circulating in the dark corners of social media that the results of the public consultation on the new Madras College had been released I went to the appropriate page of the Fife Council website to find that the results were only to be made public on April 29th (this is apparently still accurate at the time of writing). A well-known search engine however rapidly directed me to a Facebook page where I was confronted with some headline results, one more click took me to Tay AM webpage where not only were there a few carefully chosen results but also some accompanying quotes from Councillor Bryan Poole. Incensed, I phoned Fife council and asked when the results would be public, April 29th was the answer. When I asked how was it then possible that these results were already on the above publicly accessible sites I was met with a mixture of disbelief and embarrassment. Only when I provided the web addresses of the pages and read out the results and quotes did they seem to believe me. I asked if they were indeed correct but, to their credit, the Council officer refused to confirm or deny the numbers on the basis that the results were not in the public domain yet! I asked if Bryan Poole was in a position to know the results and the clear answer was yes. I was further dismayed by a similar lengthy article that appeared in the Citizen itself on April 19th, ten days before the results are due to be made public. I take it from this timing the Citizen was in possession of these results several days earlier.

It seems to me that the Kingdom of Fife has a new self-appointed monarch. King Bryan the First not only sets the single, loaded question that his loyal subjects are coerced into affirming, but he seems to control when and how the results are proclaimed to the masses and also pronounces on how we therefore feel about this critical issue; inevitably he also can’t seem to resist throwing in a bit of self-congratulatory adulation for good measure. I wonder how the rest of King Bryan’s court (sorry Fife Council) feels about his behaviour. Time to hear a few more council voices, unless they want to appear to be merely court jesters. Who knows some transparency in this whole sorry process may follow.

I have been told that the bore holes already appearing in the Pipleland fields are the first evidence of fracking for natural gas, since King Bryan wants his Kingdom to be self-sufficient in energy terms once independence from Scotland is secured – but don’t worry he is going to hold a referendum.

A disgruntled and far from loyal subject


AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY?

In recent weeks there have been numerous assertions in this paper and in other local media that the recent Educational Consultation on the new Madras College returned “overwhelming support” for the Pipeland site. The numbers published by Fife Council do not support this view. The Madras College website indicates that there are currently 1319 pupils; this must mean that there are at least 2000 parents or carers of current Madras pupils. The numbers show that there were a total of 192 votes registered, a turnout of less than 10%. The number in favour of the Pipeland site was 153, this represents less than 8% of the possible vote.

This result raises more questions than answers; why was the turnout so low, particularly since this was made an Educational Consultation? It is difficult to believe that we parents/carers do not care- I suggest the opposite is true. Could it then be that we didn’t like the parameters of the consultation, “Pipeland or nothing”, were concerned that Pipeland could not be delivered in the face of real and growing concerns or simply that the case was not adequately made in the lazy and contemptuous campaign conducted by our elected representatives? The largest numbers of votes were cast by current and future pupils, closer scrutiny of the comments reported on the website indicate that these were largely driven by discontent with the current condition of the school. I also noted many comments asking for a swimming pool at the new school, clearly many of the pupils were unaware that this is not included in the current plan and so will be bitterly disappointed.

So is 8% of the constituency an “overwhelming majority”? About this percentage of the population are left handed, about this percentage of the population of the USA believed that the world would end in 2012 and about twice this percentage of American citizens believe that Elvis is still alive. Accepting that this is still a large number of people and ignoring the issue as to whether the subjective beliefs are right or wrong I believe that no-one could consider these to reflect an “overwhelming majority”.


The Site for a new Madras College

After the statements at the recent St Andrews Community Council meeting by a university representative that the North Haugh site is available for a new school, I should like to make two points regarding its suitability as building land.

Firstly, it is an area of level and solid land on which a large building could easily be constructed. Photographs taken of the foundations of New Hall during early construction show the solid rock into which the foundations were being laid. It is much easier – and cheaper – to build on flat land. Secondly, it is dry. The same photographs also show this. The geological structure on which all the large university buildings have been located continues under the so-called ‘pond site’ and therefore would make an ideal site for a new building. I discussed at length the suitability of this area for building with Professor R. Duck, head of Geosciences at Dundee University, and we agreed that there is no reason why a large school building could not easily be constructed on this site.

A proper engineering survey was not carried out for this site by Fife Council but a civil engineer who looked at it in April of this year for the campaign group, ‘A New Madras College for the 21st Century’, reported that it did not appear to present any major building problems and was unlikely to call for much excavation of underlying rock. It was also said at the same time that the Swiken Burn could easily be cleared out to facilitate flow. The fact that there is a pond has encouraged many people to think there is a drainage problem, but the reality is that the pond is a man-made landscaping feature and is very shallow. It could easily be drained, but if kept, could form an attractive feature of a new campus. This area is not on SEPA’s map of local areas liable to flood – either by sea or river. It is not a swamp.

In contrast to this, Fife Council is proposing to build a new Madras College on the Pipeland Farm hillside. This site is an area of significantly sloping land which will require major excavation for the school building, playing fields, car parking and access. While slopes can be built on, there are far more problems and very considerable costs. This area is also subject to flooding, due to the nature of the soil and the slope. The plans for dealing with this on the planning application envisage a very large soak-away structure akin to a containment pond for water draining off the site. This is a wet hillside with major drainage problems and is, ironically, a proper swamp site.

Two main reasons for not building a new school on the North Haugh have been shown to have no substance - the site is available, and it is most suitable for building on. There are, of course many other excellent and incontrovertible reasons why the school should be built on the North Haugh to do with e.g. transport, access for the majority of pupils, compatible adjacent land uses and the fact that this is the site on the Local Plan for the new school and will therefore not meet with planning problems, as will Pipeland on the recently designated Green Belt.

More information on this is available on the website of the campaign group ‘A New Madras College for the 21st Century’ – www.newmadras.org . We want a new school as much as any group or individuals in the area. Many of us are teachers or former teachers of Madras College and have worked for many, many years travelling between the two buildings. However, the new school should be built in the right place, serving not only the town and its future residential growth areas to the west, but also the huge area of north east Fife, including the communities of Newport, Tayport, Guardbridge and Leuchars.
 

Sandra Thomson
(former principal teacher of geography and head of social subjects at Madras College)
Cairnhill Gdns, St Andrews

(Citizen 18 October 2013)


HILLSIDE SITE

Tuition will be in a bunker

Sir. - After reviewing the planning application for the siting of a school at Pipe land, I have to question why a school set in to the side of a hill is a good location. Apart from blocking daylight to the hospital each morning, obvious drainage concerns and constant wind associated with this exposed north-facing hillside - how much natural light can we truly believe this location will allow?

The southern and eastern facing facades will face into banked walls of material. Do we really want our children in a cold dark underground bunker? Neither Dunfermline or Auchmuty are built into a steep hillside. Why should Madras be the compromised site? When there are more cost effective, deliverable within the same time-frame, more environmentally conscious sites available within the town (council-owned or otherwise) which contrary to popular belief are available. I urge you to view the site, look at the gradient of the hill, proximity to the hospital and associated traffic and make your own assumption about this site. As a taxpayer, and. more importantly, as a parent. I can only see two parties set to benefit from this. Those who will not benefit are the children, their parents, the community and those who have to travel outwith the town. The people of NE Fife are being short-changed with the Pipe land site.

We have waited a long time for a worthy educational facility. We truly deserve better than the compromised option B which is what our council is proposing, - Yours, etc..
(name and address supplied)
 


Madras at Pipeland?

Dear Editor,
There is no need for Luke Rendell's dismay (Letters 18 Oct). No-one is causing offence to Madras pupils and staff per se, but if built in the wrong place, any large building used by over 1500 people from Monday to Friday, plus evening and weekend activities, can in planning terms be a "bad neighbour" to the adjacent buildings whatever it is or they are. That is a legitimate concern regarding Madras College at Pipeland.

But what many in and beyond the Madras catchment area will indeed find offensive is Cllr Brian Poole's frankly incredible statement that, even if the University offered the North Haugh site "for nothing", the Council would refuse it as "fundamentally not suitable" - despite its designation as the school's new site in the Council's own local plan (Sept 2012) and Pipeland as Green Belt (Oct 2012); and despite him giving no credible justification for their U-turn only three months later (Dec 2012) or for that extreme assertion! His statement hardly shows respect for the proper stewardship of public funds, or his obligations to us as Council Tax payers, or for the "lifetime best value" principles required by Audit Scotland. Did he clear it with the Finance and Resources Dept?

The Council refuses to treat each site on its merits, or to treat us as adults, by publishing comprehensive technical, cost and planning-duration comparisons of the two sites - on a "level playing field" basis to use an apt phrase. Originally the well-regarded Dunfermline High School, costing £38 million, was to be the template for the new Madras, but that is not possible on the Pipeland slope, whereas it would be on North Haugh. With several other exceptional costs now being unearthed for Pipeland (literally and metaphorically) it will surely prove much more expensive than North Haugh, for its basic site clearance, excavations, flood prevention, access and construction.

But in addition, the Council proposes to give Muir Construction £1.8 million for the main part of the Pipeland land which Muir owns, and will also have to spend an estimated £3 million to refurbish and maintain the long-neglected Madras A-listed historic South Street building until it is sold : almost £5 million that would not be necessary at all for North Haugh, as the University is prepared to swap it for South Street. The Council previously said it could legally accept such a deal only if based on the District Valuer's figure for the North Haugh value. Is it really beyond both parties to agree such an exchange at that value but which also reflects the £3 million refurbishment saving?

Educationally, all the deemed advantages of Pipeland would also apply to North Haugh, but with in addition (a) closer links with university departments and access to Station Park's playing fields without bussing; (b) shared sports facilities which could include a swimming pool (not included in the Pipeland plan, in a backward step from Kilrymont); and (c) greater participation in after-hours activities. Rather than locating the school where a clear minority of its pupils live, several wasted bus hours per month could be avoided for the 60% or more of pupils who live to the north and west of St. Andrews and who already suffer the longest effective working days and reduced after-hours participation.

It is understandable that many parents in St. Andrews (though by no means all) advocate Pipeland as it is conveniently located for their children and/or they feel they have no option but to accept the Council's new mantra TINA ("there is no alternative"). But the Council has to plan ahead not only for the next intake, but for the next 75 years, and in the right location for the majority of the catchment area's residents. It is noteworthy that two of the North Haugh supporters have 22 years' service as former Rectors of Madras; their opinions above all should be given due weight.

For capital and ongoing costs, construction, completion date, congestion, convenience, location, pollution, flooding, road safety, access, neighbour impacts, environmental, green belt and planning policy reasons - plus its social and educational advantages - North Haugh is clearly the superior site.

Yours faithfully,
John Birkett,

(Citizen 25 October 2013)



Fife Council's Information Deficit

Dear Editor,

Credit where it's due : Fife Council leader Alex Rowley admitted two weeks ago that their information skills were sadly lacking anent 25 sites deemed suitable for wind turbine developments.

Maybe he could now turn his undoubted talents to giving us their full reasons for (rightly) designating the St. Andrews Pipeland slope as Green Belt and the North Haugh as Madras College's new site in its Local Plan, in Sept & Oct 2012, but then (wrongly) deciding in January 2013 that Pipeland was the only option - despite its uncosted flooding and numerous other downsides.

This information deficit has been exacerbated by his colleague Brian Poole's incredible assertion that even if the University offered the flat and relatively dry North Haugh site "for nothing", they would refuse it as "fundamentally not suitable" - again with no justification. For Pipeland advocates to call it a "swamp" is ludicrous.

The University confirms that its offer remains open, to swap its North Haugh site for the current Madras site in South Street, thereby saving the Council £1.8 million which it would give Muir Construction for the Pipeland land and maybe £3 million to refurbish the neglected South Street building. It is unacceptable that two public or largely public bodies cannot agree, or be required to agree by the government, on such a sensible exchange at a legally-valid book valuation.

Yours faithfully,
John Birkett,

(Dundee Courier 7th November 2013)


Newsletter recommended

Sir,-The November edition of the Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council newsletter, entitled "Pipeland Planning Application Edition", is a most commendable document. It presents a range of views for and against the new Madras College proposed for Pipeland, a little of the history leading up to the current application, alternative solutions that may be superior to Pipeland,. consequences for the town and the whole Madras catchment, planning issues and problems, the stages in the planning process that are likely to be involved, exceptional costing estimates, and the need to consider associated issues such as the eventual disposal of the two current parts of the Madras College campus - Kilrymont Road (junior building) and South Street (senior building).
There is also some consideration of the vital questions of the impact of a school at Pipeland on the town's transport system and public services.
In other words, it is a document that concerns the entire community of St Andrews and the school's wider catchment. Whether your readers are currently in favour of, or opposed to Pipeland. they should be encouraged to read this excellent contribution to intelligent debate about how to resolve the long-standing need for a suitable single-site secondary school to serve our children and our community for generations to come. Those who do not receive the paper copy of the St Andrews Community Council newsletter may read it online at: www.standrews-cc.net/ by following the Stop Press link at the foot of the home page. - Yours, etc..

Lindsay Matheson
Madras Rector. 1997-2007

(Citizen 15 November 2013)


PLAN LACKS LOGIC

Pipe!and site traffic queues

Sir, -Many residents and visitors must have experienced frustrating delays as a result of the temporary roadworks in Bridge Street, St Andrews, last week.
A quick but thorough analysis revealed that on average there were 30 vehicles waiting on each side of the lights. This queue extended for a distance of about 250 meters.
The Council's own Traffic Report submitted as part of the Planning Permission in Principle application for the new Madras estimated that if the school is located at Pipe-land the average queue will be 90 vehicles at peak times.
Using the above numbers, this means a queue of 750 metres or a line of stationary vehicles stretching from the Westport all the way to the roundabout at Morrisons/the Community Hospital. This will in turn mean inevitable tailbacks stretching down Lamond Drive, Canongate. Tom Morris Drive. John Knox Road and Scooniehill.
This is not a short term. temporary event but something that will happen twice every school day of the year. The accuracy of this traffic survey has already been questioned as it was carried out during a holiday period and prior to the relocation of a major dental practise to the Community Hospital. If this were not bad enough, the most recently updated assessment by Fife Councils own Transportation Service expresses further concerns about the previous Report, highlighting a number of potential problems at various road junctions.
All of this leads to a conclusion that the queue may be even longer. Worryingly it also suggests that Scooniehill may become a convenient drop-off point for pupils. There is no such drop-ping-off point so this will be dangerous and inconvenient.
It talks about modification of the main roundabout and road lay-out -all of this will involve cost.
There is no magic source of finance; presumably this will come out of the already stretched school budget, reducing the quality of the educational components of the new school.
There is already no swimming pool, what will go next? The pro-Pipeland lobby are mounting an increasingly aggressive and personal campaign against anyone who has the courage to try and inject some logic into this process.
They dismiss all such people as being against the education of our children. As a parent and someone involved in education, nothing could be further from the truth.
There are a small number of local councillors who seem determined to push this option through and are using the anxiety and frustration of parents to achieve this end.
Whatever the motives of this group of councillors, political or otherwise. 1 predict they won't be around to help when problems such as the above arise. The long-term issues associated with the Pipeland option will stay with the town for generations. It is not too late to get involved in this first stage of the planning process. You can register your opinions on this vital issue by writing to: Fife Council. Enterprise Planning and Protective Services. Kingdom House, Glenrothes, or by sending an e-mail to:
development.central@fife.gov.uk quoting reference: 13/02583/EIA. All the documentation can be found on the Fife Council Planning website by searching the above reference.-Yours, etc.

Concerned Parent (by email)

(Citizen 29 November 2013)


Madras Saga goes
Seasonally Pantomime


Dear Editor,

The Pre-Determination Meeting on Monday for a replacement Madras College on the Pipeland site should have been held in a reopened Byre Theatre rather than the Town Hall, as the process is turning into pantomime.

The meeting (whose date was probably pencilled in a year ago) was immediately abandoned for legal reasons, possibly until next March, after scores of councillors, officers, legal advisors and the public were already seated, as it had been discovered only the previous Friday afternoon that certain critical information was not even available, let alone publicised.

So "oh yes it is" abundantly clear that the persons behind this farce are those Administration Councillors promoting the Education Service's application for planning consent for a totally unsuitable site. It is entirely because they chose a green belt site where development is "significantly contrary to the council's Development Plan" that a Pre-Determination Meeting had to be held, by law.

Likewise, scrutiny of the Council's decision making must be made by the Scottish Government, which will cause further delay, possibly lengthy, and could well result in rejection of this ill-starred scheme. Had the responsible politicians chosen the readily-available and more suitable North Haugh, no such Meeting or Government Notification would be required, and construction there on the admired Dunfermline High School template would surely be under way already.

So "oh no it's not" those many people supporting the much better and quickly achievable North Haugh option who are to blame for this pantomime threatening to turn into tragedy, but rather those politicians who should know better and have misinformed parents, who are understandably keen to see the long-promised school built as soon as possible, that Pipeland would be a quick fix for their aspirations.

Time for our politicians to think again?

Yours faithfully,
John Birkett, Horseleys Park

(Citizen 20 December 2013)


Levenmouth but not St. Andrews?

Many thanks to Cllr Bryan Poole, for advocating so clearly the case for siting
the new Madras College next to the University campus in St. Andrews. He claims (report 22 Jan) that the new Levenmouth School will provide "a revolutionary kind of education in Fife", with all its sports fields and a new Fife College campus "offering further education opportunities unavailable anywhere else in Fife" actually on-site!

Many of us agree entirely with him that "To just plonk a school down for S1-S6 is old hat now". But is this the same Mr. Poole who has now decided just that - to "plonk down" Madras with inadequate sports fields on an exposed sloping site on the wrong side of the town for 60% of its pupils and almost two miles from the university?

Or the same Mr. Poole who in June 2012 said "the overwhelming preference is for a site on the western approaches to St. Andrews", that "the university are interested in doing a deal over the pond site", that "Pipeland is no better than Kilrymont"; or the same council which assured us when not proceeding with a Taybridgehead school that the new Madras would be sited on the west side of the town and with the great educational advantage of easy access to the adjacent university?

Our case rests, Mr. Poole.

Yours faithfully,
Mary Jack

(Courier 24 January 2014)


Councillor asks a lot from us

Sir.- Councillor Bryan Poole asks a lot from us on Madras! (your report, April 11). Cllr Poole wants our support following the Council's Pipeland vote -
A green-belt flood-prone slope, on the wrong side of town for most pupils (forever); Hospital's eastwards expansion prevented (forever); School bus congest ion, pollution & road repairs in town (forever); Complex SUDS drainage tank system and biomass plant & chimney above sheltered & other housing, using raw materials trucked-in (forever); Traffic, noise, floodlight pollution on hospice& housing (forever);
Several new traffic-lights on Largo Road impeding free-flowing emergency-service & other vehicles (forever); A fenced-off right-of-way bisecting it, and terraced cramped windswept sports fields partly duplicating Station Park at unnecessary cost, but still dependent on it and Kinburn 1.5 miles away (forever) so it's not a "single-site";
HGVs through town; excessive excavations, levelling, site clearance, relocating underground pipeworks; Inevitably higher initial outlays, exceptional & mitigation works and lifetime costs (reducing educational contents of the £40m budget, and annual budgets forever);
Unacceptable distance from University links for pupils approaching higher education and staff's professional development (unlike his much wiser Levenmouth plan).
But by choosing a different road, all of these major disadvantages for our children and taxpayers throughout this century, that route being to North Haugh's viable alternative site, confirmed as available by a value-equivalent exchange, suitable for building on the 1800-pupil Dunfermline HS template (vs Pipeland's 1450) on the University's building line above SEPA's potentially "at-risk" area: a more simple SUDS based on the existing man-made pond (all confirmed by engineers, geographers and hydrologists); creating a 39-acre effective single-site campus via a simple underpass to Station Park with the A91 securely fenced-off for everyone's safety (unlike Largo Road at lunch-time), a short walk to Kinburn's tennis courts etc; ready access to world-class University facilities; delivering superior advantages for the full extended educational curriculum and community use.
Contrary to assertions at Fife Council's Meeting (April 3), neither North Haugh nor Station Park is a flood plain or under sea-level, nor would the underpass be, nor is the Haugh populated by a heronry, nor is it still deemed valid to include most of its alleged extra coats within this budget. Yours, etc..

John Birkett
Horsleys Park
St Andrews

(Citizen 18 April 2014)



Madras Debate descending
into farce


Dear Editor, Fife Council and St. Andrews University have opposing views on their Madras College talks (report 21 May). Why were proper minutes not taken, agreed by both? It is now incumbent on Cllr Poole to publish his evidence, as he offers.

On the two issues reported:
1)  Cllr. Poole agreed to pay Muir Group £1.7M for Pipeland's green-belt land worth £143,000 as agricultural ground, a development multiplier of 12 times. On that basis, the non-green-belt North Haugh he values at £280,000 would be worth over £3.3M for a school development (close to his South Street value of £3.5M). Why do he and Fife's Independent Valuer apply one rule to Muir and another to the University?

Moreover, South Street requires an estimated £3M upgrade to Historic Scotland standard, which the University would incur (not the Council) on an exchange. That brings its total refurbished value to around the £6M often quoted. Why can Fife's Valuer not accept the logic of that exchange deal?

2) Contrary to councillors' assertions, professional geographers and engineers confirm that the Haugh is not a flood-plain, that it is above sea-level, that it could readily involve an (above-sea-level) underpass to Station Park without risk of flooding, and that a school could be built on the same geology and building line as the University buildings, ie above the line identifying the potentially at-risk area on SEPA's map. And that its relatively-clean groundwater drainage would be easier to manage than Pipeland's well-proven muddy run-off flooding.

Yours faithfully,
John Birkett,
12 Horseleys Park,
St. Andrews

(Courier 24 May 2014)


 

 

DISAPPOINTMENT

As a Madras parent I am very disappointed with the new Madras revealed in the planning application lodged by Fife Council last week. At first sight neither the preferred option nor any of the alternatives match the promise of the much used example of Dunfermline High School or bear much resemblance to the artists’ impression endorsed by Councillor Thomson used to entice us into supporting this site. The number of pages in the accompanying case is bewildering, how can so much information give so little detail?

My initial assessment is that the sloping nature of the site coupled with its prominent location will result in the school being buried in a hole dug in the hillside, some 10 metres (33 feet) below the current level of the land at the southern edge of the site. The Community hospital suffers from a similar problem; the difference is that the bowels of the Hospital contain services and infrastructure, for the school this will inevitably be classrooms, facing retaining wire mesh cages full of stones. Fife already has a “Secret Bunker” are we destined to have a “Secret School” as well? Pupils will emerge from subterranean classrooms to shiver on wind-blown and rain lashed sports fields on an exposed north facing hillside. The playing field provision is hardly better than that at Kilrymont – is this the lack of progress our children deserve? Station Park will still need to be used. Of course there will be no swimming pool for 1400 children. This is symptomatic of this option and is I fear driven by cost. The cost of excavation must be significant, in other newspaper correspondence it has become clear that very late in the day the Council became aware of a major gas main under the site, the estimate is that it will cost at least three quarters of a million pounds to relocate this. This is of course on top of the two million pounds the Council is proposing to give Muir for agricultural land, of no value for their presumed original purpose of more executive homes. A few weeks ago the Citizen ran a several page item on cost constraints within Fife Council, presumably the budget for Madras is not elastic and all these exceptional costs will eat into the things our children actually need from a new school. The traffic section predicts a 90 vehicle tailback on Largo Road at peak times, more money will be needed to avoid chaos on a daily basis for all those trying to get to school, most pupils live outside St Andrews and rely on vehicular transport.

Is it just me or does everyone else see the irony of the SUDS (pond) proposed at the northern edge of the preferred Pipeland option? Councillor Poole repeatedly rubbished the North Haugh site option due to the presence of a man-made pond, designed as an architectural feature and only kept full by a lining. At Pipeland this is not an architectural feature but a necessary attempt to control the water run-off from this sloping site.

In addition to cost my other real worry is the timing of the project. The one benefit used to sell this site is the speed of delivery, given the well-known planning issues associated with being in a recently adopted greenbelt issues such as extensive land excavation, modifications to vehicle access etc etc make me now doubt if this speed is any more real than the artists impressions of a new school sold to us earlier this year.

I believe that our desire for a new school has been exploited to railroad this option through; this to serve the political career advancements of a small number of elected representatives. They want to be the people who delivered a long overdue new school for the children of North East Fife. Now is the time for the council as a whole to act in the interests of their constituents and engage in an open and transparent debate rather than trying to baffle us with thousands of pages of documents.

Yours

Name and address supplied


Strong case for North Haugh

Sir, -
I was delighted to see the website www.newmadras.org and the excellent prospectus which makes such as strong case for relocating Madras College to the North Haugh.

As a former university student in St Andrews who has kept up with what happens in the town, I have always thought that the exchange of the South Street historic Madras old building for a site adjacent to the new university buildings and playing fields on the North Haugh was the best solution for Madras and other interested parties, particularly the university.

The prospectus and site comparisons produced by "A Twenty-first Century Vision for a New Secondary School Serving the Madras Catchment Area" make compelling
cases for the North Haugh solution.
Let us hope these arguments prevail with the Fife planning authorities and they don't proceed with the Pipeland development for the new school. - Yours, etc.,

Dr Andrew Craig
Gosberton Road
London


Survey Figures don't add up

With regard to the proposed new build school at Pipeland and growing concerns among many people in the town on the significantly increased traffic volumes and congestion which would result, I was interested to read the recent traffic survey in the proposed joint hotel/Marks & Spencer planning application on current traffic volumes. This traffic survey, despite being a duplicate of the exercise carried out on behalf of Fife Council in relation to the proposed school, shows markedly different figures. The hotel/Marks & Spencer survey shows present traffic volumes at the Community Hospital/Morrisons roundabout to be 16% greater than those detailed in the Fife Council survey. When one considers that the current traffic volume figures are used to extrapolate post development figures, which currently foresee tailbacks of up to 90 vehicles at said roundabout at peak periods, one must question the veracity of the scale of increased traffic as predicted by Fife Council. Has Fife Council perhaps underestimated traffic volumes at this key junction?

Clearly if the school was to be located on the North Haugh site, the traffic volume into the town and along Largo Road would in fact be drastically reduced.

If like me you have very real fears about the development of the school at Pipeland and the impact on our roads, please register your objection as a matter of urgency.

Yours etc.,
Concerned Local Resident

(Citizen 18 October 2013)


UNI MAY BE KEEN

North Haugh IS real option

Sir.-The purpose of this letter is to assure your readers that the North Haugh proposal for Madras College is not only highly desirable. as everyone appears to accept, but eminently realistic.

Misleading comments have been made to suggest that St Andrews University would not make this site available for sale or exchange if Fife Council was to make such a request.

The following may assist your readers to judge for themselves. In 2006 the first offer of an exchange was made by St Andrews University even before a budget for the new Madras College had been confirmed. In 2008 the North Haugh site was formally offered to Fife Council as the site for the new school. After this, came protracted negotiations for other sites that led to the failure of the Langlands B proposal in August 2011.

Despite this failure. however. St Andrews University subsequently stated on two separate occasions, in 2011 and 1013. that its 'door remained open" to a future approach from Fife Council in this connection. It is therefore clear beyond any doubt that if the political will existed to pursue the original concept of a sensible and mutually-attractive exchange of the North Haugh site for the South Street part of the current school campus, a fitting and economical solution would be available to this long-delayed project.

The fact that the North Haugh site is not on the Green Belt and is zoned for school-building in the current Fife Local Plan, moreover, would ensure no planning problems would be likely, thus providing a rapid solution to an urgent problem for the school and the community.-Yours etc.,
Lindsay Matheson
(rector of Madras College. 1997-2007)


NON-PARENT VIEW

Pipeland is not the best site

Sir, As a non-parent I have no stake in the controversy over the siting of the new Madras College, so perhaps I can be more objective than some of your correspondents

(I) It is clear the Pipeland site is on the wrong side of town for the majority of the pupils who are bussed in.

(2) The site itself is unsuitable, being on sloping ground, next to the hospital, and close to a busy roundabout.

(3) The so-called pond site has none of these disadvantages, has the great advantage of being close to the existing playing fields, and is readily available through an excambion with the university.

(4) In view of these points it is clear that there will be a challenge to the Pipeland site, and that there will have to be a public enquiry and that the issue could go all the way to the Scottish Government. So the Pipeland site is not the quick fix to the problem as many parents clearly think, but the exact opposite.

(5) The question that always arises In cases like this is CUI BONO? Who benefits? Well, the owner of the land in question, the "southern hillside', is Muir Construction, on which they want to build houses. It is patent that the school is just a Trojan Horse for the destruction of part of the landscape setting of the town that the Green Belt was set up to protect.

(6) Therefore It is obvious that the Pipeland site is not in the best intervals of the pupils, parents or the town itself, and has only been selected for self-serving political reasons.-Yours, etc.
Colin McAllister, South Street

(Citizen 18 October 2013)


Council digging hole for itself

Sir.- Councillor Bryan Poole's statement in last week's Citizen suggests Fife Council is shifting its ground on why it has refused to consider the North Haugh site for the replacement Madras College. While previously suggesting that the Council could not buy this site because it was too expensive, Mr Poole now appears to be saying the Council would not accept this site even if it was offered to the Council for nothing. No evidence has been produced to show the University have put further obstacles in the way of a purchase. Understandably, the University wish to stay out of this controversy, but they have made it clear that this site is available.

Despite the North Haugh being identified in Fife Council's local plan as a suitable site for the school, the Council have consistently refused to effectively engage with the University to discuss ways and means to achieve building the school there. Originally, the Council's reason for rejecting the North Haugh site was that they were obliged to observe legal 'Best Value' requirements and could not therefore pay the asking price. Information gained through Freedom of Information subsequently established they had never had the North Haugh site officially valued, and therefore could not say whether or not the price asked by the University was
reasonable or not. In addition, Audit Scotland which oversees local council's compliance with best value standards, has made it clear that the test of best value is the social, environmental and economic benefits of the total project over its lifetime, not a single aspect of the project such as site acquisition.

In addition, when two public bodies are negotiating a property deal, best value principles need not apply It is clear the Council has now backed away from these arguments and is now saying the North Haugh would be too costly to develop. Many university buildings have been successfully built on the North Haugh. The site for the school is on the same terrain.

Figures published on www. newmadras.org show that the alleged high costs for developing this site produced by the Council's consultants bear little relation to reality, and that the Council's own officers reduced these considerably.

Subsequently, an independent assessment demonstrated considerable savings over the Pipeland Farm proposal. The Pipeland site can claim no educational benefits and this may be why a constant campaign has been waged by local supporters of Pipeland to denigrate the clearly superior North Haugh option. It is essential the new school meets the needs of all in the schools wide catchment

The Pipeland site being pursued against all reason by the Council meets none of the criteria it set itself for locating the school. Very serious problems will be encountered in building there.

Difficulties now emerging at Pipeland are estimated to cost over £13m to remedy. With a fixed budget, this will reduce the amount available for educational facilities. Equally serious planning obstacles lie ahead. Hoary old tales suggesting that saying 'no' to Pipeland will seriously delay the building of the school are simply scaremongering. The Council, having had its decision-making over the choice of Pipeland brought into serious question, must stop digging a hole for itself. The sooner it changes tack to pursue a realistic option the sooner the school can be delivered. - Yours, etc..

David Middleton, Lade Braes, St Andrews

(Citizen 25 October 2013)


Make the Site Figures Public

Sir. - In reply to Councillor Brian Poole's statement in The Courier on October 12,     I wish to question his views on the costs relating to the North Haugh site for the new Madras building. He states the purchase price and related conditions were non-negotiable; I would question this as being a good reason for not reopening negotiations with the university now that the ever-mounting costs of building at Pipelands site are unfolding.

It is now quite evident that apart from the high cost of purchase of the Pipeland site there are other large financial costs to be taken into consideration. There is also the green belt issue to clear up - and due process will take time.

Costs arc now mounting, such as the excavation of the hillside to construct playing fields etc. There is also the removal and relocation of gas and sewage pipes which run through the site and the need to purchase the disused waterworks in the middle of the site. A SUDS has to be constructed which is sufficient for that area of flooding over the years.

These costs will certainly be more than the figure plucked out of the sky by the Labour administration of £ 10 million for North Haugh.

Why were those issues, and probably more, not discovered when a survey of the site was carried out? Was a professional, technical survey ever carried out?

The North Haugh site in exchange for the South Street, empty and run down Madras College, would also mean a large saving in the expense of upkeep of that property for many years to come.

I and the community would like to see these figures made public so that those who have an interest in public spending and the education of our children, can be satisfied, or not, with this planning application in principle.

Bill Sangster.
24 Main Street.
Strathkinness

(Dundee Courier 18 October 2013)


Responses to the PPiP

Dear Sir,

I find it sad that many people have been encouraged to sign a pro forma letter of support for locating the new Madras College at Pipeland and that the result is now being described as overwhelming support for the new school on this site. A whole host of important planning policies would have to overturned in order to build a school at Pipeland. These policies were established through a long process of public consultation and approval by both the Council and the Scottish Government. There is no procedure which allows them to be overturned by a “popular” vote. A good number of these pro-forma responses comes from a relatively small group of the total parents, carers and grandparents of current Madras pupils and primary pupils of feeder schools in the huge Madras catchment area. We should remember that Pipeland is the only location for a new school that Fife Council has offered – a Hobson’s choice that has worried many people into thinking and writing that it is this or nothing. This is simply untrue.

The three statements in the pro-Pipeland pro forma response deserve to be critically assessed.

• It will provide an exciting and badly needed new school to meet the demands of the Curriculum for Excellence.
• It will be a building and campus designed to be sympathetic to their surroundings
• The new and accessible campus will be a great asset to the community

All of these points are debatable as applied to Pipeland but all could be the aspiration for virtually any new school. One might ask to which community a school at Pipeland will be an asset – certainly not to those pupils and community users from the North and West of the catchment area who will find it very difficult to access.

There are no planning or educational arguments for Pipeland – either to do with the site or the situation – and the escalating costs on the Pipeland site make the whole proposition one which should be reconsidered at the earliest opportunity. It is time to go back to first principles and start again with open minds and a common purpose to find the right location on which to build a new Madras College for the children of St Andrews and the whole of its catchment. We all want a new school but Pipeland is the least good location which could possibly be imagined for all the reasons already eloquently aired in your columns.

Yours faithfully,
Sandra Thomson.

(sent to press 18th November 2013)


Short term vs long term

Sir.-Once again, the Pipeland band betray the weakness of their position by indulging in the argumentum ad hominem.
It is despicable to attack people who give their time and expertise freely in the service of the community.
I would say these people who have the long-term good of the community at heart have as much right to be heard as a group of parents who seem (quite naturally) to think only of the supposed short-term benefits to their offspring.
I say supposed, because as has been pointed out, the Pipelands site will take longer to deliver, at greater cost and for less benefit. Why don't these people stop flogging a dead parrot? Furthermore, public polls do not determine truth or the validity of an argument. Suppose 77% of whales who were asked if they were fish or mammals replied they thought they were fish. Would that make them so? - Yours, etc.,
Colin McAllister
South Street St Andrews

(Citizen 29 November 2013)


Disturbed by some points

Sir, - The letter from the St Andrews Community Council planning committee (Citizen November 29) quotes some disturbing points from the Transport Assessment of the Pipe land proposal commissioned from the consultants SKM Colin Buchanan (SKMCB). SKMCB says "queues on the hospital/Morrisons roundabout could be largely avoided by widening approach roads to that roundabout".
There are only two. Largo Road, the main approach road is already too narrow for current traffic on almost its whole length from Westport up to the roundabout. Neither it nor its pavements have any practical scope for widening. John Knox Road allows slightly more scope, but still only minimally, other than for about 50 metres at its eastern end.
SKMCB also "predicts the Pipeland proposal will have some positive... effects" on five junctions with side roads. How on earth could a large increase in traffic have any such "positive" effects? It is surely inconceivable that SKMCB are less than objective by telling their client Fife Council only what it wants to hear, but it is also surely inconceivable that our Councillors could possibly believe these assertations.
Readers are no doubt aware of the controversy over the high-speed rail project in England (HS2) which, while its budget of £40bn is one thousand times that for Madras College, has some similarities.
A former advisor to HS2 Ltd., Prof. Henry Overman, now believes it is waste of money and says "it is deeply depressing that Parliament was asked to vote on whether to start the project before alternatives had been properly considered". These words express precisely the opinion of many objectors to Fife Council's proposal to choose Pipeland, and our councillors will no doubt bear them in mind In their upcoming vote on the Council's own Planning in Principle application. Councillors - there is an alternative to Pipeland, which demands your proper consideration!
- Yours, etc..

John Birkett
Horseleys Park St Andrews
(Citizen 6 December 2013)
(Courier 7 December 2013 last paragraph)


North Haugh site availability

To allay David McCallum's concern about the "readily available" status of the North Haugh pond site for Madras College (Letters 3 Jan), may I quote Niall Scott, Director of Corporate Communications at the University of St. Andrews (its owner) in reply to Henry Cheape's query at the Community Council meeting on 7 October 2013 : "The pond site is available, as it always has been, on the basis of a straightforward excambion for South Street."

Agreed, he then said : "However - and it is a big however - we have explored this option with Fife Council and they have made it very clear they do not want this site". He also said that the Council stated that "it is fundamentally not suitable for their needs, in fact they have told us that we could give them the site for nothing and they still would not accept it for the new school"; and that the University was not actively offering the site, preferring that the Council would make the approach first. So I concede that while my wording was true, it was maybe too brief (often required in letters to the press) and did not give the whole picture portrayed by Mr. Scott.

However - also "a big however" - his words qualify Fife Council's position, not the University's, and in their totality they clearly leave no room for doubt that the University has indeed confirmed the site is available. It is equally clear that it is entirely due to the Council that the obvious solution of an exchange of South Street for North Haugh has made no progress in two years. It has never justified why it suddenly became "fundamentally not suitable" just two to three months after its inclusion as the preferred site in its own Local Plan, nor its hardly-credible rejection of the site even for a hypothetical nil price offer.

After all, until negotiations failed in August 2011, the previous Council administration was prepared to accept the adjacent and "fundamentally very suitable" Langlands B site, including North Haugh, in exchange for South Street! And under the bequest of its founder Dr. Andrew Bell, South Street must be used for educational purposes, so who does the Council now think might take it over apart from the University?

Mr. Scott's confirmation was published in "St. Andrews Citizen" on 18 October 2013 (which also included a well-argued letter from a former Madras teacher, Sandra Thomson, on the geological advantages for building on the North Haugh over Pipeland) and elsewhere in the press, albeit without naming him; and was included with his name in the formal minutes of that C.C. Meeting.

Fife Council's initial reason for rejecting North Haugh (before it mysteriously became "unsuitable") was that the University's value was too high for the District Valuer to accept, under mandatory Best-Value Principles. But they did not have it officially valued, so have no basis for comparison. Also, Audit Scotland's "best value" covers social, environmental and economic benefits, and lifetime costs, not merely initial site purchase.

Conversely, it intends to pay the Pipeland owners Muir Construction (with whom it has a well-known long-standing relationship) a windfall £1.8million out of the school budget for only part of the sloping and frequent-flooding site, despite its recent valuation of only £160,000 by an independent valuer - and then to incur overdue maintenance costs of an estimated £3million on South Street, plus Pipeland's higher design, clearance, excavation, foundation, construction and access costs etc, than would apply using the Dunfermline High School template on the North Haugh - while trying to save £100 million over the next few years!

Anent misleading statements, maybe Mr. McCallum could persuade the pro-Pipelanders to desist from, inter alia, describing it as the "fastest" solution supported by "77% of the community" and implying they represent all parents (wrong on all counts); while decrying the North Haugh as a "swamp" (nonsense) and even insulting its advocates, who include ex-Rectors and Deputies with several decades experience leading Madras College, as "old fogies" using "irresponsible delaying tactics against a new school and our children's education".

Finally, they might answer this - if the Council had proper technical and cost like-for-like comparisons of both sites, as it should have had, and which scored equally on objective tests purely as sites, would they still favour Pipeland as the better location?

Yours faithfully,
John Birkett, Horseleys Park,

(Citizen 10 January 2014)


Council did not have power

Sir, - Fife Council was not empowered to determine the planning application in principle for a new Madras College at Pipeland Farm, put forward on April 3. Contrary to reports, this application has been neither determined nor granted and planning permission has not been given.
The matter has now been referred to Scottish Ministers who will decide whether to call it in for decision or to return it to Fife Council. -
Yours, etc.,

Sandra Thomson
 A New Madras for the 21st Century Campaign Group

(Citizen 18 April 2014)
 


Confusion over land valuations

Sir,- Am I the only person who is slightly confused about the valuations being banded about for the new Madras?
While I cannot speak for the University, I would query Councillor Poole's assertion on the" non-negotiable purchase price of £3.5m" for North Haugh (report, April 11).
As I understand it. the University's position has been for a straight non-cash exchange of the 14-acre North Haugh site for the 4.5 acre South Street site (similar to the Langlands B talks which failed in 2011), which may well seem an unbalanced deal at first glance. But the Council apparently wants to give Muir a "hope value" of £l.8m for the Pipeland site acres, versus its £155k agricultural value -multiplier of 11.6 times. Applying that to North Haugh's £270k agricultural value gives an "educational development value" of £3.13m.
That sum closely reflects South Street's deemed valuation of £3m to £3.50m in its present state of disrepair - it requires a further £3m spent on refurbishment to Historic Scotland's standard - so a straight exchange of the sites whereby that refurbishment obligation would pass to the University, seems a reasonable deal. Also, I believe Fife no longer has a District Valuer, such matters being decided by a National Valuer in Edinburgh.
So surely a fair exchange "valuation" in a non-cash transaction could be imposed on two publicly-funded bodies if they cannot agree themselves? Finally, why would the Council pay such a "hope value" to a private speculative landowner but not apply the same multiplier to a publicly-funded body like the University? With Pipeland's green-belt status, Muir should surely have "no hope at all" of ever getting more than the agricultural value. -
Yours, etc.,

W.R.G. Tait
Howard Place
St Andrews

(Citizen 18 April 2014)


Madras Debate descending into farce (2)

Dear Editor, Fife Council and St. Andrews University give diametrically opposed views on their talks from June-December 2012 on an access road to the North Haugh as a possible Madras College site.

It is appalling that minutes were not taken, signed by both, particularly as previous negotiations failed in 2011 (also unsatisfactorily explained).

Education Spokesperson Cllr Bryan Poole insists "there were clear and non-negotiable conditions set and if necessary I will put the evidence into the public domain". That is necessary - now.

Aside from that, the Council adduces three main reasons for its rejection of North Haugh :

1) Valuation. Cllr. Poole wants to pay Muir Group £1.7M for Pipeland, worth £143,000 as agricultural ground, a development multiplier of 12 times. Using his formula, the North Haugh he values at £280,000 would be worth over £3.3M in development terms (close to his South Street valuation of £3.5M).

So why do he and DVS, Fife's Independent Valuer, apply one rule for a cash deal benefiting a private speculative landowner and another for a non-cash exchange deal with the University? Whether the price is in cash or property is surely irrelevant. Sauce, goose and ganders come to mind!

Moreover, South Street requires a £3M upgrade to Historic Scotland standard, which the University would incur (not the Council) on an exchange, bringing its refurbished value to the £6M often quoted; and the Council would save £4.7M in cash. Why cannot he and DVS accept the exchange deal's financial logic?

2) Drainage. Geographers, hydrologists and civil engineers confirm (contrary to councillors' assertions) that the Haugh is not a flood-plain; it is above sea-level; it could readily involve an (above-sea-level) A91 underpass to Station Park without risk of flooding (obviously with security fencing along the roadsides); that a school could be built on the same geology and building line as the University buildings, above the line identifying the potentially at-risk area on SEPA's map; and that its relatively-clean groundwater drainage would be easier to manage than Pipeland's well-proven muddy run-off flooding.

3) Single-site. The "primary" factor in North Haugh's removal from the list of "suitable" sites (para. 2.6.21 of Pre-Determination Meeting papers 20 March 2014) was that it would not meet the "single-site" criterion, due to the A91. That is absurd; the council's own site comparisons in late 2012 included an underpass to Station Park's excellent sports facilities.

Pipeland has a right-of-way bisecting it through the middle, requiring 3metre high gated fencing on both sides, and its terraced, cramped, windswept sports fields will partly duplicate at unnecessary cost, but still depend on, Station and Kinburn Parks' facilities 1.5 miles away. So Pipeland is the real "split-site" by the council's own definition!

It is a disgrace this spurious reason was not given until March 2014 despite repeated requests throughout 2013.

So - an alternative, cost-effective, policy-compliant, better-located, environmentally-superior, suitable site is available - sufficient reason under planning rules to reject the council's plan.

Finally, it is regrettable that, in the 600th anniversary year and as a fitting swansong to his own illustrious career, the one person who could have brought the two parties together seemed reluctant even to leave the starting blocks - despite once being "the fastest white man in the world" - our MP and University Chancellor Sir Menzies Campbell.

Yours faithfully,
John Birkett,
12 Horseleys Park,
St. Andrews,

(Citizen 30 May 2014)

 

WASTE OF CASH

Pipeland plan is pure folly

Sir, - Alex Rowley, leader of Fife Council, faced with a budget deficit of £100 million, has asked the public to suggest ways In which the Council could avoid becoming insolvent. Let me suggest a few substantial savings which would be relevant to St Andrews and North East Fife. First, the Council could reduce the £lm per year special bus costs for Madras pupils travelling in from outlying areas by deciding that the new College should be built on the North Haugh which has a ten-minute bus service from its main catchment area. Greater use of this flexible and cheaper bus service would also help the Council to meet its statutory carbon reduction targets.

Secondly, the Council could accept the offer of the North Haugh site from St Andrews Universily in exchange for the Madras South Street building. This would immediately save the purchase price of £1.7 million for the Pipeland site they have offered to buy from the Muir Group at a cost of ten times its current agricultural value. The Council would then also save on the maintenance costs of the historic Madras College, which, having been neglected by the Council now requires refurbishment estimated to cost £3 million. Historic Scotland has required the Council to have a clear proposal for the use and maintenance of this A-listed building within its plan for re-locating the school. So far the Council has no plan, and it could soon be a liability rather than an asset. It would be an irony if Fife Council spent council taxpayer's money in keeping an empty school heated and maintained, while closing numerous small village schools.

Mr Rowley could also save on the exceptional costs now being exposed on the Pipeland site. Having rushed into this, they have discovered the vendors do not own the water treatment works. Also overlooked is a 19-inch gas main and a large sewer pipe bisecting the site, both of which will have to be relocated at a cost estimated to be in the region of £2 million. In addition, the excavation of this sloping hillside to provide level playing fields will involve a cost of approximately £1.5 million. Excellent sports facilities already exist at Station Park, which would be accessible from a North Haugh school, These are by no means the full costs of building on this difficult, badly located site. The planning application has identified further costs, including the need for flood prevention and sustainable drainage system, as well as radical road alterations on the A915 next to the Community Hospital. These costs will cause a budget overspend estimated to be in the region of £13 million.

The New Madras College could be built much sooner on the North Haugh site to help save Fife Council from financial meltdown and Mr Rowley's political bacon.- Yours, etc.
Dr John Amson, 5 Shore. Anstruther


Pipeland

Despite being well nailed down by solid arguments the Pipeland coffin has opened and a dire spectre has emerged.

1. A school crammed in behind a community hospital with little thought to the interests of its neighbours.
2. A school so poorly located that even at current traffic volumes a tailback of vehicles at rush hours of 90 cars over a 15-minute period is anticipated based on a traffic survey completed in March.
3. A school difficult to access for most pupils and community users, being on the wrong side of the town.
4. A school on a wet and sloping north-facing site that will be very complex and expensive to engineer and requires the construction of a Pond.
5. A school with one all-weather and only three grass playing fields, two of which appear to have a ten-metre drop between them and are very close to housing below them.
6. A school situated two miles away from most university departments that might have been accessed by senior pupils.
7. A school that will always be haunted by what and where it should have been.

The Campaign for a New Madras remains wholly convinced that on every count, short-term and long-term, the case for a new school at the North Haugh is unanswerable. Interestingly there has been no reasoned rebuttal of our "Prospectus" since its publication a few weeks ago. We wonder why? See www.newmadras.org and judge for yourself.

LM


Pipeland and the Water Question

Sir, -
The town of St Andrews was embroiled in controversy in 1885 when a proposal to build a reservoir for a public water supply at Lochty was halted after construction had started. It was eventually abandoned at great expense when alternative solutions were used. This became
known as the 'St Andrews Water Question'.

In 2014 St Andrews might again be embroiled in controversy, this time to avoid a surfeit of water, potentially at great expense. Those living in Scooniehill Road and Lamberton Place, along Kinnessburn Road and Dempster Terrace, already suffer from flooding at times of high rainfall. As recently as July last year the Kinnessburn flooded above Langlands Road bridge and water was seen coming from manholes in Kinnessburn Road. The footpath for residents of Dempster Terrace was under water. More exceptional weather events are now being experienced and are predicted to intensify in the future. Four of the top five wettest years on record in the UK have occurred since 2000 and 'extreme' daily rainfall has become more frequent.

In proposing to build a school at Pipeland Fife Council can only exacerbate the problem. All the hard surfaces at the new school, as well as the elevated sports pitches, will require complex and costly SUDS systems with a giant soakaway beside Lamberton Place properties. These will to some extent contain the initial downpour but the water has to be led off somewhere. Currently rainwater water goes into the existing surface water drains under Largo Road to discharge into the Kinnessburn at Pipeland Road. How that system will cope with the much larger volume of water remains to be seen but one can only imagine that the level will be raised further. That, of course, supposes that the drainage pipes under Largo Road are sufficient to cope with the flow. If not, then flooding will surely occur again at the top of the system at Pipeland and flow down Largo Road. The alternative would be a very costly and disruptive process of digging up Largo Road from top to bottom and laying a larger diameter pipe. And how long will that take?

In 1885 the councillors had the courage to abandon a lost cause. That is what should happen now. The Council should abandon the ridiculous proposal for building the much-needed new Madras College at Pipeland. The timescale will be protracted, progress will be tortuous and fraught with delays and extra costs. See sense and build it at the North Haugh. We must hope that our elected members will exercise good sense and decide that the new school should be built on the excellent and available site on the North Haugh which has already accommodated many major buildings without difficulty.

Arlen Pardoe (A local resident)


PIPELAND SCHOOL

Pupil road accident fear

Sir. - Spare a thought for all the patients, staff, visitors and volunteers should Fife Council proceed with a new Madras on the doorstep of the Community Hospital.

With parking already at a premium, one can envisage further traffic congestion, with predicated 90-vehicle tailbacks and late or missed appointments, not to mention the vast increase in foot traffic through the hospital car park while pupils march to and from the nearby supermarket at the start and end of the day as well as during lunch breaks. How long will it be before a pupil is involved in a road accident? It makes no sense to condemn the hospital to all the above while there are alternative sites in better locations.

You can stop this now by registering your objection with Fife Council. Say NO to a new Madras right next to your Community Hospital. - Yours, etc.

Tony Rocke, St Andrews


Dear Editor,

I respond to your request of May 31st for views on the current proposal to re-build Madras College at Pipelands Farm.
This plan is flawed on several counts.

- The first is the location, which is most unsuitable for the majority of school and community use purposes, being on the wrong side of St Andrews to serve the catchment efficiently.

- The second is that the site is a poor one for a school, being on an exposed and sloping hillside with a long history of flooding.

- The third is that access to the site is most awkward, not merely in the tortuous entry point but in the already congested nature of the southern roundabout. To add a busy school to this part of the town is clearly a mistake.

- The fourth is that the site does not lend itself to provision of adequate sports fields for a school such as Madras College, which currently makes full use of its eleven pitches at Kilrymont Road (2) and Station Park (9). The creation of even five pitches at Pipelands Farm will be difficult to engineer and very costly.

- The fifth is that access to the university departments with which the school has links will be most difficult owing to the distances involved.

- The sixth is the serious long-term traffic and environmental impact on St Andrews. On any lifetime assessment of best value the Pipelands proposal shows up as a poor option.

- The seventh is the serious planning hurdles to be overcome if the Pipelands option is to proceed. In all probability the Council's plan will entail serious delays and a high risk of being rejected, since it is plainly against both current planning law and the recently-adopted Local Plan.

If there was no alternative site for a new Madras College one might reluctantly accept Pipelands as an improvement on the current unsatisfactory split site.

However, it is patently clear that a very good alternative does exist at the North Haugh, on a site offered by St Andrews University to Fife Council in 2008. Although the subsequent Council preference for the Langlands B site did not materialise there seems no reason whatever why both parties should not return to the original site offered. Indeed I firmly believe that this site, the so-called "Pond Site" provides the best option of all, even better than Langlands B, since the site is suitable for the new main building and parking of the school and gives ready access to the established fine resource of Station Park for playing fields. Moreover the seven points listed above as deficits of Pipelands Farm are all positives of the North Haugh!

The site is best-placed to serve the whole catchment, is a beautiful and sheltered place, is convenient for bus and car access, is close to most university departments, would not impact on St Andrews in traffic or environmental terms, would give excellent lifetime best-value, and is likely to have few if any planning problems since it is already the preferred location for the new Madras College on the 2012 Local Plan.

Finally, the only reason why Fife Council has not chosen the North Haugh seems to have been a negative and unbalanced report by an external consultant. Oddly, there has been, to public knowledge, no equivalent "risk assessment" carried out in the case of Pipelands Farm. What folly it would be to turn down the best site on the basis of a flawed report and to proceed with an inferior option without any risk assessment.

Yours sincerely,
Lindsay Matheson
(Rector of Madras College. 1997-2007)
 


SCHOOL DECISION

This is not an X Factor vote!

Sir, -The conflicting stances of the two Madras College pressure groups come down to the availability of an alternative site to Pipeland. On this issue there appears to be a total lack of transparency.
The comments regarding the North Haugh site in last week's Citizen by Councillor Poole and a 'University spokesperson' were all smoke and mirrors.

Until these parties make a clear and objective account of why negotiations stalled, it is perfectly understandable and legitimate that many believe that building at the Pond Site is still a workable option.
The reasoning of the Parent Voice group seems to be that Pipeland is the quickest option. It is doubtful if this would be the case.

The planning process, which will involve Fife Council attempting to overturn their own Green Belt policy, will certainly be a complex and protracted affair. Overwhelming evidence that no alternative sites are available will surely be a key consideration in this process.

I would also imagine that construction on such a difficult site will take considerably longer (with many undisclosed additional costs).

This is not an X Factor vote! I only hope the planning authorities give full and impartial consideration to the debate and make a decision in the long-term interests of the town.-Yours, etc..

Fred A Mackenzie
Grange Road
St Andrews

(Citizen 25 October 2013)


Relocation of Madras College

Dear Editor,
From the opposing views you have rightly published on Madras College, it is clear that those Pipeland advocates whose support is based on the supposed speed of its delivery are suffering from a major misconception as to how our planning rules and processes dictate the determination of any proposed development, particularly where the local council is both developer and planning authority.

Councillors are well aware of this, but unfortunately the myth has gained currency, maybe due to the (undemocratic?) constraints on them about expressing a view before the vote is taken in Council, that Pipeland can be approved and completed in a short timescale. Such constraints have not of course inhibited Cllr. Bryan Poole, who recently referred to procedures "to agree" the planning application rather than "to determine" it, clearly showing his bias rather than an impartial view; and who refuses to justify the U-turn on the North Haugh site, despite the university's confirmation of its availability and consulting engineers' opinion that it is "well suited" for such development.

The Pipeland application includes so many breaches of or material conflicts with the Council's own policies (Green Belt, TayPlan, St. Andrews & East Fife Local Plan, Landscape Assessment and eight specific Adopted Local Plan policies) that the process will inevitably be extended by quite possibly an extra year and, legally, will be called in by the Scottish government as all councillors must expect. Also, while the South Street area would be greatly improved, the proposal has major traffic, congestion and pollution implications (permanently, not just during construction) for the whole length of Largo Road, its side streets and Bridge Street - affecting fire, ambulance and police services, among others - as well as an adverse impact on all the hospital facilities and adjacent residential areas.

Legally, all of these issues require full unbiased consideration by the Council's own planning authority and ultimately the Scottish government; and despite the allegations of Pipeland supporters, to highlight them cannot merely be denigrated as "delaying tactics by North Haugh supporters". They are all legitimate issues affecting many other departments within Fife Council itself which the Planning department is obliged to address, just as Finance & Resources must consider any increased costs, and would apply even if no North Haugh group existed. Pipeland's approval is by no means a done-and-dusted deal, as many assume. Ironically, and contrary to their misguided publicity, it is Pipeland supporters within the council and general public who are causing the delay affecting our schoolchildren's best interests.

A North Haugh application would avoid such delaying issues, would not require any referral to the government, and would ensure the new school's completion sooner than at Pipeland (and a superior one educationally and socially, with simpler construction on the Dunfermline template, for lower capital and ongoing costs) if Fife Council could swallow its pride and re-open talks with the university based broadly on their joint pre-2011 Framework Memorandum - whose target delivery date for the new Madras was August 2013!

Yours faithfully,
John Birkett,
To the Editor, St. Andrews Citizen
17 November 2013.


Site choice puzzles many

Sir - Many people I speak to wonder why Fife Council has decided to pursue a planning application which they know will be divisive and extremely controversial, in their proposal for a new Madras College. A much better and easily accessible site for the whole catchment area has been confirmed as being available, and suggestions that the North Haugh site would be difficult to build on have been demonstrated to be false.
Pipeland is quite clearly in the wrong place for most pupils, especially those from the Taybridgehead settlements whose interests seem to have been completely ignored. It would also be a costly option as the serious problems with this site become more apparent. The only winner will be the Pipeland land holding escalate in by a factor of 10 due to the value Council's interest in buying what would otherwise be agricultural land in a green belt. It is noticeable the Council has pushed forward its proposals without securing a future for the Madras South Street and Kilrymont buildings which will be redundant. They have been formally reminded of their obligation to maintain both listed buildings and secure a future for them by Historic Scotland. but appear to have made no such plans.
They will be costly to maintain, and the Council has spurned an offer from the University to purchase Madras South Street building. Many people are also worried that Station Park will play no part in the Council's future plans and this wonderful community resource could be sold off to help bale it out of its financial difficulties, despite the fact that it will still be needed if a full sports curriculum is to be offered. It is time for the needs and aspirations of the community to be asserted in this sorry tale of mismanagement and misadventure in achieving a new single site Madras is urgently needed before further resources are applied to a scheme which is likely to run into the buffers, and even if successful, would provide a poor solution for both pupils and community users from Madras's extensive catchment area. 
Yours, etc.,

Mary R.C.Jack
{Retired PT Guidance, Madras College)
Craig Road
Tayport

(Citizen 6 December 2013)


Local Authority must completely rethink its options


The debacle which was experienced by the many members of the community who turned up to contribute or to observe the Discretionary Hearing for the proposed replacement Madras College was entirely avoidable. It was only necessary to hold this Hearing because the enhanced level of public participation and scrutiny needed for proposals which are significantly contrary to the Development Plan.


This proposal would if agreed, run coach and horses through numerous policies designed to protect the quality of life in St Andrews. The confusion was caused by the applicants rushing with undue haste to get their scheme through the planning system and calling the Hearing before all the necessary information was in place. It is ludicrous for the Council Education spokesperson to blame this hiatus on people who have exercised their democratic right to respond to the Council's ill advised scheme. The new information which stopped the show came from the Council.


The information provided in the aborted application shows that the school could only be built at Pipeland by jeopardising the operation of a vital and valued public service - the Community Hospital.


As the Council cannot be decision makers in their own case when proposing to overide adopted planning policies, their scheme, if it proceeds will be subject to scrutiny by Scottish Ministers who may decide to refuse the application. Parents who have been led to believe that Pipeland offers a fast track to a new school, will be disappointed by the current turn of events. This will see the application start again from the beginning with a likely three month delay.


Now is the right time for the Council to exercise statesmanship and completely rethink its options, the most sensible one being to build on the best location, next to the school's existing first class sports fields and linked by a ten minute bus service to its main catchment area. The site on the North Haugh is not only highly suitable and available, but it is the designated location for the school in the local plan and unlikely to experience any planning delays.

David Middleton
Confederation of St Andrews Residents' Associations

(Courier 19 December 2013)
 


Sir, - In reply to Cupar resident Mr Montgomery's letter printed in last week's "Fife Herald" I wish to point out that nearly 2/3rd of the pupils who attend Madras College live north of the River Eden, well within the circulation area of the "Fife Herald" which prints the local news for the Taybridgehead area.

Is Mr. Montgomery suggesting that Taybridgehead residents buy two local papers to ensure that they receive their local news as well as letters and news relating to the education of their children and planned community use facilities? This was the case last week when the expected reply to Mr.McCallum's letter of 3rd January by Mr Birkett was not published by "The Fife Herald" but did appear in the Citizen.It is to be hoped that "Fife Herald" readers will be able to read Mr.Birkett's reply to Mr. McCallum's letter this week.

Taybridgehead pupils and parents long to be in the same position as Bell Baxter pupils and parents who have enjoyed the benefits of a single site school for some time.  Yours etc.,

Mary R.C.Jack
Craig Road,
Tayport.

(Fife Herald 17 January 2013)



Fife Council is wrong on Madras at Pipeland!

Fife Council's "Madras at Pipeland" plan rests on four misconceptions. The figures for South Street's "valuation" (£5M) and North Haugh's additional costs (£14M) are long discredited (article 29 March, Michael Alexander).
1. "North Haugh & Station Park is not a single-site". The A91 is elevated by 2 metres; a simple underpass between them would create an ideal 39 acre single-site.
2. "Pipeland is the only single-site available". Its 31 acres would still depend on Station Park (1.5 miles away), Kinburn (1 mile) and elsewhere for tennis, cricket, golf etc so it is neither a single-site nor the only one!
3. "North Haugh is prone to flooding". Its relatively-clean groundwater drainage would be more manageable and cost-effective than Pipeland's slurry-polluted run-off.
4. "Exchanging North Haugh for South Street is unequal". That exchange would avoid paying Muir Group £1.7M for Pipeland (ten times its valuation!) and refurbishing South Street, required by Historic Scotland, for £3M.
It would deliver more quickly a better, lifetime-cost-effective school, well placed for all the catchment; with easy links to University, no in-town disruption and pollution during construction or for ever thereafter, and without preventing our hospital's future expansion. On that basis, an exchange is a Win-Win deal for a first-rate extended-curriculum education.
Yours faithfully,

John Birkett,
12 Horseleys Park,
St. Andrews

(Courier 30 March 2014)


Cllr Bryan Poole calls for
co-operation over Madras College


Cllr Poole wants us to support his Madras College plan (Page 7, 10 April) for a 1450-pupil school on a windswept green-belt slope with a poor flooding history, on the wrong side of town, preventing the hospital's eastwards expansion forever, with a complex drainage tank system and biomass plant chimney overlooking sheltered and other housing, bisected by a fenced-off right-of-way and with cramped sports fields partly duplicating Station Park's but still dependent on it and Kinburn 1.5 miles away (therefore not even a "single-site"), continuing in-town school buses forever, and needing several new traffic lights all the way up Largo Road, major excavations and site clearance, and relocation of underground pipes - RATHER THAN avoiding all these disadvantages in favour of the available North Haugh in a value-equivalent fair exchange, suitable for building on the 1800-pupil Dunfermline HS template on the university's building line just above SEPA's potentially "at-risk" area (confirmed by engineers, geographers and hydrologists), with ready access to University facilities, and effectively a single-site via an easily-constructed underpass to Station Park (none of which are flood plain, under sea-level, or include a "heronry" as asserted to councillors!). I think not, councillor.

Yours faithfully,

John Birkett,
12 Horseleys Park,
St. Andrews

(Courier 12 April 2014)


Thurso Vote for Pipeland

Sir, - Many thanks to letter-writer A Disgusted Parent for his contribution in last week's St Andrews Citizen. This indicates that there are some Madras parents out there who have not been swayed by the vitriol from Parent Voice supporters. Three letters in the same issue from their group, all mentioned the word "democracy".
I am reminded of the quote by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, who stated that, "Integrity is the lifeblood of democracy. Deceit is a poison in its veins." Perhaps Parent Voice should consider their definition of democracy.
In a bid to swell support for Madras Pipeland, in October 2013. several of their members stood in Morrisons' foyer, approaching shoppers on their way out. A pre-printed petition simply required three ticks in a box and a signature. Suffice to say, that is how they have claimed their statistics of 77% of the community supporting them. This action might have been perceived as being "democratic" if the signatures had come from our community. but that was not the case. On reading all the representations submitted online before the Pre-Determination hearing, I noticed there were addresses from the length and breadth of Scotland. Consider these - Auchterarder, Blair Atholl, Broughty Ferry, Buckhaven, Burntisland, Cowdenbeath, Crieff, Cumbernauld, Dalgety Bay, Dundee, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Glasgow, Glenrothes, Inverkeithing, Kirkmichael, Kilconquhar. Livingstone, Leven, Milton, Motherwell, Paisley, Perth, Pitlochry and Thurso! Is it right that Fife Council should have considered these submissions which were obviously from visitors to St Andrews who had no local connection? With their demands of "we want a school now", their use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Parent Voice have orchestrated an emotive reaction to this issue, it is regrettable that in their haste and impatience to get a new school, they have failed to see the bigger picture and the inevitable impact that the Pipeland site will have on our town. Many elderly residents living close to the proposed site cannot speak up for themselves or use social media to make their voices heard.
What about their democratic rights?
Pipeland is a second-rate solution to the problems of a single-site school. It will only replicate what is already present at Kilrymont. The only difference will be a larger and more modern building.
Pupils will still have to bussed through the town to Station Park for additional sports facilities. Levenmouth and Fife College are being developed into a single modern campus. l hold that St Andrews as a world-renowned seat of learning with its university should be given the same educational status. - Yours etc.,

Mrs Marysia Denyer
Scooniehill
St Andrews,

(Citizen 18 April 2014)