Fife Council will now consider the way forward on a new Madras College after judges upheld environmental group STEPAL’s challenge to the decision to build the new school at Pipeland.
Three civil appeal judges upheld a challenge brought by St Andrews Environmental Protection Association over a Fife Council decision to approve in principle a site for a new Madras College.
Now the decision will be quashed as “unlawful” and the whole matter would be sent back for reconsideration.
Lord Malcolm, who heard the appeal with Lord Drummond Young and Lady Clark of Calton, said the planning authority had adopted “an erroneous approach”.
“Any councillor reading the report would reasonably assume that if there was to be a new school, it had to be at Pipeland,” he said.
“The planning authority was diverted from the planning judgement which it required to carry out if properly exercising its jurisdiction.”
“The full council was effectively told that it should ignore the issue as to whether the green belt could be protected by using an urban site, because the applicant had already considered the matter and its decision was determinative,” said Lord Malcolm.
He added: “Thus the councillors were put in the position that if they wanted a new Madras College, and that had been a pressing need for many years, they would have to sanction development at Pipeland.”
Lord Malcolm said: “We are not suggesting that any conscious decision was taken to give priority to the council’s decision as education authority to build at Pipeland; we merely wish to emphasise the importance of constant vigilance against the obvious risks inherent in a council adjudicating upon its own application.”
Cllr David Ross, Leader of Fife Council, said: “Obviously we are all bitterly disappointed by the court’s decision.
“I’m especially saddened for the young people in this area who have had the prospect of an early start to the development of this new school at Pipeland taken away from them again.
“As a learning community, Madras is in a very good place with its current Leadership Team and staff. The learning and teaching that the young people are receiving at Madras are amongst the best not only in Fife but in Scotland.
“We now have to take time to consider the legal decision and its implications before making any decisions on how we proceed and we will advise all those concerned as soon as we can“
Lord Doherty initially rejected STEPAL’s challenge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh last year, but his decision was appealed.
Lord Malcolm said the council decision “gave the go ahead for a major development in the green belt and on prime agricultural land, and thus was contrary to the terms of the development plan.”