Vote assured for the second-rate
Sir, – There are many aspects of the ongoing educational consultation on the acceptability of the Pipeland site for the new Madras that are extraordinary.
The frustrations of previous years means that, at least as far as parents are concerned, a substantial vote in favour of the proposal is virtually assured, despite the proposed school being educationally second-rate in the terms that Fife Council itself has spelt out in previous years.
It was notable at the public meeting at Kilrymont that the officials appeared unable to say anything positive in favour of Pipeland to the parents present, relying instead on the very dubious argument that there is an absence of alternatives.
It is therefore equally amazing that Fife Council can attempt, for tactical reasons, to exclude discussion of alternative sites by running the educational consultation ahead of the planning one, when its only real justification for putting forward this site is based on planning arguments — albeit ones that appear to be erroneous.
As there are strong planning arguments against the Pipeland site, parents may well find they have merely been led up the garden path for a third time.
Only parents with longer memories are likely to recall that Fife Council told them time and again in 2009 that it would be proximity to the university that would make the difference between a bog standard school and a distinguished one.
Now the same officials are backing what is about the furthest site in the town from university buildings.
What was then a central plank of the project is now almost totally forgotten, and no-one looks willing to put their money where their mouth was.
However oversold, the idea was not without merit.
Former senior pupils from South Street certainly benefitted from easy lunchtime access to the university library.
The new school will also be moving backwards in terms of sports provision.
Not only will there be the loss of the swimming pool at Kilrymont, but questions also need to be asked about the quality and quantity of pitch provision.
We are told that the provision at the Pipeland site will compare favourably with that at the Kilrymont site.
The main component at present, though, comes from the superbly-drained level pitches at Station Park, which are now being viewed as jam on top.
Whatever protestations are made to the contrary, it seems highly likely that a future cash-strapped Fife Council will see them as exactly that, and sell them off for development, leaving the school with a significantly-reduced
Also amazing at the Kilrymont public meeting was the growing list of practical problems with the Pipeland site that were candidly admitted to be currently unsolved.
Some of these intermeshed with the list of safety concerns about the Pipeland site.
Parents could usefully give some thought to the safety of the road crossing to Morrisons at lunchtimes (the proposed measures to keep pupils onsite did not sound effective); the need to divert the public footpath across the site; the proximity to the Pipeland water works; and the relative proximity to the mobile phone and TETRA masts further along the hill.
We will not rehearse here the details of the powerful non-educational arguments against the Pipeland proposal.
Suffice it to say that short-sighted educational policies, favouring large schools and long-distance bussing with a huge carbon footprint, are very bad news for the planet, and thus for our children’s children.
From a more local perspective, the southern hillside is the key element of the new green belt for which the town battled for almost 20 years.
Development at Pipeland would kill the green belt in its infancy. – Yours, etc.,
THE ROYAL BURGH OF ST ANDREWS COMMUNITY COUNCIL PLANNING COMMITTEE
(Mr Howard Greenwell [Chair], and members of the committee: Dr Ian Goudie, Ms Izzy Corbin, Mr Patrick Marks and Ms Penny Uprichard).
Apples, oranges and bananas
Sir, – With regard to a new site for Madras College, Fife Council may indeed have explored the possibility of the North Haugh Pond location “in some detail” as Councillor Bryan Poole asserts (Your Views, March 1).
I did not suggest otherwise in my letter of February 22 despite his comment.
He refers to the advice from “a highly regarded group of professionals” of significantly increased costs of between £6m and £12m, and of significant risks (unspecified) relating to developing that site.
But it is noteworthy that he does not explain why the Council selected a south of England firm for this advice rather than one of our many local expert firms, and that he accepts that it did not even make a site visit before arriving at this guesstimate.
That is hardly what one normally understands by “professional” in the surveying or construction industries!
The Council’s briefing paper of October 2, 2012 (‘Madras College Site Options’) gives the North Haugh cost as an estimated £51m, including £10m unspecified “abnormal costs”, as Ron Caird said (Your Views, March 1).
But it also includes £5m for the distributor road, with the qualification that the responsibility for its cost is “debatable”.
So the implication is that the base construction cost is an estimated £36m, which is well below the other sites’ estimates of about £40m or, like Pipeland, in excess of £40m.
Moreover, this estimate for Pipeland includes no allowance whatsoever for its “abnormal” costs that are already known, due to building on a sloping site, levelling it for the sports fields, and eradicating permanently its drainage problems which have caused flooding in several recent years.
Did the Council not ask its “group of professionals” to guesstimate these costs, and if not why not?
Nor does it include the site purchase cost, nor are any of the points addressed which Ron Caird detailed, on the relative South Street/ Kilrymont/North Haugh site values and benefits accruing therefrom.
What is the point of a consultation based on a flawed prospectus with inadequate information and comparing apples with oranges and bananas? And why do our councillors seem to accept this approach?
Surely we are entitled to the full facts, presented in a manner permitting a fair comparison and a considered judgement to be made.
There is another fundamental
Understandably, most parents in St Andrews probably wish Pipelands to go ahead, and soon, despite the loss of green belt and other disadvantages.
But their children comprise only around 500 or one-third of Madras pupils, with most of the rest (over 900) living anywhere from Guardbridge to the Tay Bridge area and dependent on school buses.
One would expect the Council to give these pupils a higher priority weighting in their secondary school location.
Further, the Council’s Local Plan for St Andrews envisages 1000 new houses, plus more in north-east Fife, implying an increase, over a decade or two, of several hundred in the secondary school population, and mostly within the town.
Taking at least a 75-year view ahead, as we should, the case is surely strengthened for a new Madras in St Andrews and also a new Taybridgehead school (rejected by the Council), and is the kind of long-term capital infrastructure investment which should not be compromised by any need for savings in our current public expenditure. – Yours, etc,
12 Horseleys Park
still to come
Sir, – We can sympathise with Luke Rendell’s impatience at the time it is taking to deliver a new Madras (Citizen, February 15 and March 1). The St Andrews Preservation Trust, representing a wider constituency, is however also entitled to express its view and play its part in the decision-making process.
Our purpose is to ensure that generations to come can continue to enjoy the historic character and landscape setting of St Andrews which, as we all can see, is under constant threat from many quarters – from property developers and sometimes (as in this case) from Fife Council too.
A new school on the North Haugh site will not only be sound, visually and environmentally, it will also, we feel sure, appeal greatly to pupils, parents, staff and the many other users of the school, most of whom live well to the north of the town. – Yours, etc.,
Chairman, St Andrews
Plea to pro-pond supporters
Sir, – These pages have carried many letters in recent weeks supporting the use of the pond site for the new Madras College, in particular emphasising how the flood risk can be overcome.
A more fundamental problem that’s mentioned less often is that the land is still owned by the university.
We’ve seen several references to ‘on-going discussions’ and ‘positive exchanges’ regarding sale of the site to the Council, but talk is cheap.
Can we suggest that the supporters of the pond site publish a letter of confirmation in this newspaper next week?
If their discussions are as positive as is made out, the university should have no problem in providing a missive of support, perhaps indicating how close it is to concluding the sale.
If, on the other hand, this support cannot be evidenced, can we suggest the pond site supporters end their campaign, and get behind the Pipeland option which the council has stated is attainable. – Yours, etc.,
Sir, – I observed the St Andrews Community Council meeting on Monday, March 4, where they were to vote yes or no to a new Madras school on the Pipeland site.
I walked out of the meeting feeling extremely disappointed and unsupported as a parent of two young children, as the council voted ‘no’ to the Pipeland location.
There were various comments from community council members before the vote, such as should there even be a school in St Andrews, as over 60% of pupils travel from outwith the town. Leuchars or Guardbridge were cited as perhaps better locations.
It was also suggested Fife Council should try negotiating again with the university.
Such comments make me feel the community council is not thinking of our children’s education, that it does not even pretend to empathise with the kids who are currently being educated in sub-standard conditions, and that it does not think there is any urgency to resolve the schooling issue. – Yours, etc.,
3 Tulloch Place
A council, ‘but not of the community’
Sir, – On Monday March 4, I was a curious spectator at the St Andrews Community Council meeting, primarily to listen to the discussion concerning the Pipeland site for Madras.
I left the meeting extremely disappointed and frustrated with the council, and not just because of its frankly farcical decision to reject Pipeland as a supported site.
I had assumed the community council would be a representative cross-section of the true community of St Andrews. However what I observed did not reflect at all the town that I have lived in and come to love over the past 10 years.
It was disappointing to see St Andrews represented by a wholly unrepresentative cross-section of the town – namely the elderly, the closed-minded and those that epitomise the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) attitude.
I was also concerned to see the chair of the community council actively pursuing his own agenda and making his opinions clear during the debate (anti-Pipeland). As I understand it, a chair is supposed to remain impartial unless a casting vote is required. Further investigation amongst my peers and colleagues shows that no-one is clear on or understands how someone gets nominated or elected on to the community council, and its website offered no clue when I investigated.
As far as I am concerned, the community council does not represent the community of St Andrews that I am a part of and am happy to be involved with.
I feel that it is important that other residents of St Andrews question the community council and its motives to ensure it accurately represents the thriving and inclusive community I understand St Andrews to have.
I saw no evidence of this at the meeting. – Yours, etc.,
9 Priory Gardens
Sir, – Jill Saunderson’s repeat of the well-known Greens mantra ”Renewables good, Nuclear bad” does little to address the danger to mankind of man-made, carbon-induced climate change.
If Scotland is serious about carbon reduction, then fossil fuels must be left in the ground and all heating and transport must be electrical.
This would increase our maximum electricity demand to about 40 Gigawatts, which could be met by 20 modern nuclear plants or 80,000 two-megawatt wind turbines (assuming 25% efficiency), backed up with fossil fuels.
Sorry! Since these are not allowed, truly massive pumped hydro storage schemes would have to be constructed involving billions of tons of high-carbon concrete, damming just about every glen in Scotland, for when the wind didn’t blow.
Thus we face a future of either nuclear power, destroying Scotland with renewables, or ignoring climate change and maybe dooming future generations.
Reassuringly, in the 25 years since Chernobyl, the predicted huge increase in excess cancer deaths has not been detected.
And at Japan’s Fukushima power plant, the scene of a more-recent nuclear accident, it is also predicted there will be few, if any, radiation deaths.
Furthermore, the next generation of integral fast-breeder reactors could burn existing high-level waste as fuel, leaving only medium-life actinides, and avoiding the need for uranium mining. – Yours, etc., STEPHEN GRIEVE
No Byre, but still sold on Carousel
Sir, – In these austere economic times, citizens of all communities up and down the land are concentrating single-mindedly on income and employment, each for him or herself.
In these circumstances, it was all the more heartening to be at a performance of Carousel last week and to applaud, not just the play, but the teamwork and commitment that was very clearly on display.
And this in the face of the further challenge for the cast of having to squeeze on to the Town Hall stage rather than that of the more spacious Byre theatre.
The Byre had been the intended venue during weeks and hours of rehearsal and preparation and planning.
All in all, though,it was a joyous occasion and an excellent show.
And perhaps, more importantly and impressively, a spectacular example of community spirit and professionalism, in spite of the toughness and uncertainty of everyday working life.
– Yours, etc.,
J L LE MAITRE
32 Lade Braes
Is public health
on the radar?
Sir, – At the north-east Fife area planning committee held on February 21 the councillors were asked to give an opinion on the Lingo wind farm application.
Their decision to reject the proposed development was based on planning policy.
The officer presenting the case made mention of the fact that there was an MOD objection regarding the ATC radar at Leuchars.
She added that, due to a Reporter’s decision made on January 21, 2013, regarding radar mitigation, this was no longer a reason for refusal due to possible mitigation.
The decision she was referring to is Corse Hill in Angus, another West Coast Energy proposal.
In 2007, the European target for energy from renewable sources was increased to 20%, pressurising the UK to increase its production in a short timescale.
A Memorandum of Under- standing on Aviation Radar and Wind turbines (Mitigation Issues) was agreed to and signed by interested parties, including the MOD and Infratil Airports.
An Aviation Management Board was set up and, at the BWEA 31 Conference in October, 2009, Ed Milliband, the then secretary to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, announced that the UK would fund a £5.15m research and development project which could release up to 5.5 GW of wind farms being held up in the planning system.
Two million pounds was to come from The Crown Estate and £1.55m from DECC.
A further £1.6m was to come from the wind farm companies through The Aviation Investment Fund Company, which received contributions from 14 wind firms, one of which was West Coast Energy.
A Holographic radar solution has since been accepted as mitigation by Infratil Airports Europe for both Glasgow Prestwick and Kent International.
Radar, whether active, passive or holographic is not a totally benign technology.
What guarantees do the public have that neither they nor their living environment will be damaged by these trials, as there appears to be no requirement for an environmental impact assessment to be made?
Technology demonstrations are taking place this summer with the first mitigation solutions expected to be implemented in 2014/15.
That so much money, time and energy is being spent on trying to resolve the ATC radar issue is very concerning on two fronts.
Neither the defence of the nation nor public health should be put at risk for commercial gain and political targets.
– Yours, etc.,
Coaltown of Callange