Madras College decision sparks outrage in St Andrews

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APPROVAL of the £40 million redevelopment of the Madras College site at Kilrymont in St Andrews has caused outrage among parents and campaigners.

Fife councillors gave the go-ahead for the Kilrymont building to be turned into a new school following a stormy meeting of the education and children’s services committee last Thursday.

Ten members voted in favour of redevelopment while a motion calling for the decision to be delayed until the new year received only five votes.

There was a vociferous complaint from Labour leader Alex Rowley prior to the vote being taken when he argued that councillors had been denied the opportunity to formally debate the proposal.

He has now submitted a formal complaint to council chief executive Ronnie Hinds, describing the meeting as an “affront to democracy”.

A report before the committee recommended adopting Kilrymont as the preferred site following the breakdown of an initiative with St Andrews University to build a school jointly.

Kilrymont, which was always the council’s fall-back option, came out on top of a scoring assessment of possible sites that looked at issues such as transport, development and planning constraints, impact on school and community and deliverability by August 2015.

Independent councillor Bryan Poole told the meeting that refurbishing a school in Cupar had put “huge pressure on the headteacher and staff to keep everything on an even keel.”

He then said that situation had completely changed since the school was first located at Kilrymont.

“When the school was built at Kilrymont, there were fewer cars and fewer houses. Most children would have lived in the immediate vicinity of the school and would have walked to school and there would have been significantly less traffic.

“I don’t think we would build a school there now if we had a blank piece of paper - I don’t think Kilrymont is the best option.”

Councillor Robin Waterston, the only St Andrews councillor to sit on the committee, spoke in favour of adopting Kilrymont and proposed the motion that was carried.

While acknowledging the public engagement process had not been fully effective, he argued that the information available showed Kilrymont to be the best option and there was no need to delay the decision to investigate other options such as Station Park.

“The Kilrymont renewal has been the alternative option ever since 2009 when there was a careful assessment exercise scrutinised and supported by the all-party school estate development group,” he said.

“As a committee, we have all the facts we need here and now.”

The issue was then put to a vote despite a protest by Councillor Rowley that the committee had not had an opportunity to debate the matter and that several of the questions he had raised earlier had not been addressed.

Speaking later, Councillor Waterston said: “The potential for a marvellous school is unquestionable.

“The transformation and extension proposed is radical and exciting.

“There has so far been something of a failure of the imagination by some of what an investment of up to £40 million could achieve at Kilrymont.”

“The decision will now be subject to an educational consultation involving parents, pupils and the wider community in the catchment area with clearer information about the details of the proposal.”

Afterwards, Councillor Rowley told the Citizen that he felt the views of the people of St Andrews had been ignored, adding: “I’m appalled at the way this whole issue has been dealt with and I will be lodging a complaint with the chief executive immediately.

“The concerns and views of the people of St Andrews have not been listened to and we, as councillors, have been denied the opportunity to express those views.

“All we asked was that the decision be delayed until the people of St Andrews were given enough information about this site because, at the moment, I believe most are unconvinced.”

Committee chair Douglas Chapman told the Citizen: ‘‘A report has now been sent to the standards commissioner regading Councillor Rowley’s conduct and it would be inappropriate for me to say anything more at this point.’’