FEELINGS ran high at a meeting of St Andrews Community Council this week when a vote on whether to support a new Madras College on the proposed Pipeland site resulted in a member resigning.
By a clear majority, the council voted against the building of the new school on Fife Council’s proposed site at Pipeland, prompting member Andy Primmer to stand down as he felt he could no longer be part of a body that did not prioritise the “education of the children of St Andrews”.
However, chairman Kyffin Roberts, commenting afterwards, said the community council had a duty to represent the interests of the whole community of St Andrews and not just parent groups.
He maintained that with more than 60 per cent of pupils coming from outwith the town, the views of the groups supporting the Pipeland option did not necessarily represent those of all parents in St Andrews.
“It was regrettable that he (Mr Primmer) resigned,” Mr Roberts said. “I understand his views entirely and hope that he will reconsider.”
However, Mr Primmer is adamant he will not be rejoining the council as long as it maintains its opposition to the proposal.
“As a community council, it should be fully behind the fastest building of a new school in St Andrews,” said Mr Primmer, who stood for the council around four years ago specifically on the Madras issue.
He continued: “I am very sympathetic to those opposed to the Pipeland site. If the ‘pond site’ (North Haugh) was available, I would support that as the best option but the fact is that it is not.”
Mr Primmer said that in 2006, HMI Inspectorate had condemned Madras and since then there had been no investment in the buildings, leading to further deterioration. With the opposition expected to delay the process at the planning stage, he said there was little prospect of the conditions improving at the school for years to come.
More than 15 people, including representatives of groups campaigning for and against the Pipeland option, attended the meeting to hear and participate in the debate.
These included Wendy Donald, of the Madras for Pipeland Group, who said in a letter to the Citizen: “As an observer, it appeared to me that it was more a case of self-interest being expressed, and absolutely no recognition was taken of the appalling conditions that children and staff are currently having to put up with.
“It is ridiculous that the majority of members of a body that is supposed to represent the community of St Andrews are so out of touch, and have such a disregard for the education of children.”
Councillor Brian Thomson, who also attended, said: “It was clear from the debate at the meeting that a mistaken view is still held that alternative sites – in particular the ‘pond site’ – are both available and deliverable within budget.
“That is simply not the case. The council carried out a thorough and rigorous review of all options, and Pipeland was identified as the only one that could deliver a new single-site Madras College.”
The key points of contention involve the availability of the pond site at an acceptable price, its suitability for building on and the costs; where children will travel from and public transport; and the Pipelands site being in a green belt area.