The row in St Andrews over where a new Madras College should be built took a new turn this week when it was revealed that two formal complaints had been made against the town’s community council.
Precise details of the complaints have not been revealed but are believed to relate to the council’s decision to oppose the Pipeland site, not fully consult with the community and failing to conduct its primary function as a community council.
Chairman Kyffin Roberts told Monday’s night meeting that the complaints had been investigated by members of the council’s general purposes committee, whose members found that the complaints were not valid, that the council had complied with legislation and had engaged with the community.
Mr Roberts pointed out that unlike Fife councillors, community council members were not restricted on commenting on planning applications.
It was explained to members that if the council adopted the recommendation of the committee, the complaint could move up to a level where Fife Council would become involved, meaning the matter could drag on for two or three months until investigations were concluded.
Mr Roberts said: “I think there is a middle road. We could say that we do not accept the complaint, but there is a possibility that things could have been done better.”
Students’ Association representative, Chloe Hill, suggested that an independent inquiry be held to investigate the matter - a view shared by St Andrews University director of communications, Niall Scott, also a co-opted member of the community council.
He pointed out that the highest standards of governance were expected.
“There is a great risk that by investigating yourselves, you will not carry public confidence.”
Council member Penny Uprichard said the community council had acted in accordance with Fife Council requirements.
Community councillor Ian Goudie said there had been some “very basic understandings” about the way the council operated, with ongoing input from residents over a protracted period.
“I would be opposed to saying things should be done better.”
One of the complainants, David McCallum, hearing the points made, said from the public benches that he would be “escalating” the matter as he did not expect such a position from a democratic body.
“The council has shown utter contempt by not consulting with the wider community.”
Community councillor Ronnie Murphy said half the people of St Andrews backed the Pipeland site and half didn’t. On that basis the council did not have a mandate on the issue as the town was not united.
Fellow member, Marysia Denyer, wondered what the future would hold if the community council were dissolved as a result of the investigation.
Mr Roberts added that the community council’s objections to Pipeland were based on planning grounds, while many comments posted on social media websites were emotive ones.
The community council - which has to deal with the complaints in a set timescale - is to write to the complainants acknowledging their letters.
It is also to seek advice about apparent “contradictions” in Scottish Government and Fife Council guidance concerning community council affairs and report back to the complainants.