STEPAL’s cash plea

STEPAL is now charging a membership fee. Pic: John Devlin.
STEPAL is now charging a membership fee. Pic: John Devlin.

STEPAL, the group campaigning against siting the new Madras College at Pipeland is asking for another £20,000 from its supporters to fund its legal battle.

The organisation needs the extra cash to meet legal bills of £100,000, despite having already raised more than £80,000.

But St Andrews Councillor Brian Thomson said this week that the cost to Fife council taxpayers of the fight had been £3m: “At a time when the council is having to make savings of around £39m for the forthcoming financial year it’s for STEPAL to justify its actions,” he said, adding: “STEPAL – and its small group of supporters – are depriving the children and young people of the new school that they need and deserve.”

A spokesperson for Parent Voice, who support a school at the Pipeland site, said that “it is truly heartbreaking to think about what that money from a few wealthy individuals could achieve in the hands of someone who genuinely cared about education.”

And he challeged STEPAL’s arguments: “STEPAL should have the courage to admit that this is all about the green belt. Instead STEPAL hide behind the ridiculous fiction that the North Haugh is a viable alternative because they know that most people see 0.5 per cent of the greenbelt area as a reasonable compromise for a desperately needed new school.”

Mary Jack, a STEPAL director, responded: “The 2012 Local Plan for St Andrews and north east Fife designated a green belt for the town and a large area to the west of the town for future expansion, after an 18-year battle by many, including the Green Belt Forum.

“This western expansion area is supposed to contain the development of the town over the next 20 years.

“It is therefore unsurprising that STEPAL, as an environmental protection charity, should object to planning applications for development which contravene planning policy when a large area has already been set aside for such a purpose.

“STEPAL considers that much of the proposed development is contrary to the Local Plan and has therefore widened its remit in an attempt to protect the unique townscape and landscape.”

Ms Jack added: “Significant public support has enabled funds to be raised for the specific purpose of legally challenging Fife Council’s planning application for a school at Pipeland and all funds applied for this purpose have come from sources fully aware of this.”