£3 million and rising...and taxpayers footing bill for delay in new Madras College in St Andrews

Artist's impression of the new Madras College at Pipeland.
Artist's impression of the new Madras College at Pipeland.
  • Delays costing £1.5m a year in inflationary costs
  • Earliest possible entry now 2018
  • Campaigners say Council is to blame

Campaigners against a new Madras College at Pipeland have cost the taxpayer an extra £3 million since beginning their battle to have the building stopped.

And the delays also mean the earliest date children could move into a new school will be 2018.

Perhaps Councillor Poole would like to confirm exacly how much of the proposed budget would be spent on site purchase and preparation works before the first brick is laid?

STEPAL

That’s according to Fife Council’s education spokesman Bryan Poole, who this week said the latest appeal by opposition group STEPAL, led by former Madras rector Lindsay Mathieson, could see the bill spiral out of control.

He said the delays were adding to the financial pressures which Fife Council was already having to address.

“Every year’s delay is costing Fife Council around £1.5 million due to construction inflationary pressures,” Councillor Poole said.

“So on inflationary costs alone, STEPAL have cost the taxpayers of Fife an additional £3 million to date, which in all probability will increase.”

He said he had asked council officials to investigate whether these additional costs could be included in any claim submitted in relation to the action taken by STEPAL.

“I’m hopeful there is a way where STEPAL can be held responsible for the actions they have instigated,” he said.

On the timing of a new school, Cllr Poole said: “During discussions, immediately following Lord Doherty’s judgement, with officials from Fife Council Building Services Team a tentative timetable which had the contractor on site by the middle of June 2015 was outlined.

“With a 24-month build period we were planning to have the children start the August 2017 school session in the new school.

“We were aware that STEPAL had a period of 21 days to lodge an appeal against the judgement but, given the content and clarity of Lord Doherty’s judgement, we hoped that STEPAL would have accepted the judgement.

“As we now know STEPAL have decided to appeal Lord Doherty’s judgement though they still haven’t indicated on what grounds.”

He said the consequences were “extremely serious”, most importantly on the educational front, with children having to continue to be taught and teachers continuing to work “in facilities that have been significantly less than satisfactory since Mr Matheson, one of the directors of STEPAL, was himself the headteacher of Madras way back in the early 2000s.”

He continued: “The original judicial review lodged by STEPAL had already delayed the project by a year (from 2016 to 2017) and their decision to appeal the judgement has put the project back at least another year so the earliest the children could get into a new school will be 2018.”

He maintained that Fife Council had done everything it could to bring about a replacement school for Madras.

“Our approach has effectively been endorsed by the Scottish Government, from a planning perspective, and by Lord Doherty, from a legal process perspective, but we have all been thwarted by STEPAL - a company effectively set up to do just that,” he said.

“That a company can be set up to take action which costs the public purse millions of pounds seems to me be bordering on an abuse of the system.

“The conscience of Fife Council on this issue is clear - it will be for the directors of STEPAL to say whether their conscience is similarly clear.”

In response, a statement from STEPAL said: ““We have already stated many times that any additional costs in this project may be attributed to the ill-judged Fife Council decision to go for Pipeland and then by ignoring the decision of the NE Fife Planning Committee in February 2014, when other better sites were available that would not involve setting aside the Local Plan and breaching the green belt.

“Perhaps Councillor Poole would like to confirm exacly how much of the proposed budget would be spent on site purchase and preparation works before the first brick is laid?”