FIFE Council has decided to review site options in St Andrews for a new £40 million single-site school for Madras College.
At a meeting of the council’s new executive committee, members discussed two options for the future of the school – to go ahead with the refurbishment and extension of the present junior school campus at Kilrymont Road, or to go back to the local community and consult again on the different site options.
The committee voted by 13-3 against an SNP motion to retain the target opening date of August 2016 and set an absolute deadline of August 2017 for the new school to be open and fully operational.
Councillor Alex Rowley, leader of the council and chair of the executive, said: ”We have to get this right for St Andrews and Tay Bridgehead and the future generations who deserve a state-of-the-art building for their education.
“It’s vital that we have the backing of the local community for this important decision.
“That’s why we’ve decided to make sure all the alternatives are reviewed so that we get the right site for a new Madras that is fit for purpose.”
Councillors considered the results of a consultation exercise conducted by the local authority earlier this year where statutory consultees voted in favour of a remodelled Kilrymont.
However, when the consultation was widened to take into account the views of the wider community, a larger majority were against the proposals.
Councillor Rowley added:”We will be taking swift action on this issue and speaking to all the relevant parties - including the University of St Andrews - as quickly as possible to move this forward.
“We are committed to ending the uncertainty for the local community, teachers and pupils and taking a decision that is right for St Andrews and Tay Bridgehead.
“Given the background to this project we will want to take the school and wider community with us at every stage of this project and find the right solution as soon as it’s practical to do so.”
However, SNP councillor Keith McCartney has warned that the proposed new single-site school could be further away than ever, and criticised the committee’s decision to vote for an idefinite delay in starting the project, which he claimed may have ended any hopes of it being open before the summmer of 2018 at the earliest.
He said: ”This will be a huge disappointment to the many parents, pupils and staff who are desperate to see a new educational facility which will meet their needs and aspirations by providing a learning environment suitable for the 21st century.
“While the SNP still believe that Kilrymont offers the best option, we agreed to ask officers to have another look at possible alternative sites because we recognised that many people had concerns with it.
“What we are not prepared to do is to accept years and years of further delay which will compromise the education of a whole generation of young people.
“By refusing to set a limit on the length of any further delays, Labour and their allies have not only given up any chance of getting a new school open in August 2016, they have very probably killed off any chance of it being open before August 2018 at the earliest.”
Councillor Rowley responded by accusing the SNP member of “childish politics” and urged him instead to get involved in the process to help come up with a solution to the future education provision in north east Fife.