Plans to build a new secondary school at Pipeland in St Andrews to replace the existing Madras College have been approved by Fife Council.
The application had been recommended for refusal by the Council’s north east planning committee.
But at today’s meeting of the full Fife Council, councillors voted 56-11 to grant planning permission.
Councillor Bryan Poole, the Council’s education spokesman, who proposed the motion to grant conditional planning permission, said there was no doubt everyone agreed there was a need for a new school to replace the existing split site Madras College.
But there was disagreement in communities in north east Fife, and in St Andrews in particular, over whether Pipeland was the right location for the new school.
He argued other ‘options’ such as North Haugh – known as the Pond Site – could not be considered, as it was not available or suitable.
Cllr Poole said: “Pipeland is the only option. There is no other site available.”
He was supported by Cllr Tim Brett, whose Tay Bridgehead ward is in the catchment area of Madras College, who told the Council: “We owe it to the pupils and staff to provide a new school as soon as possible. Do we really want to stop and start the whole process again?”
But Councillor David MacDiarmid, Howe of Fife and Tay Coast, insisted Pipeland was the wrong choice and questioned whether it would be deliverable within the £40 million budget.
He said: “I’ve got figures which show £13 million needs to be spent before we even lay a brick on the site.”
Cllr MacDiarmid also argued the applicant – Fife Council’s education service – was wrong to dismiss North Haugh.
“The applicant is being disingenuous in describing North Haugh as a split site – it’s five yards from the playing fields for goodness sake. It is wrong on no other site being available, and it is clearly wrong on North Haugh being a split site.”
The Council’s decision to approve the application will now be referred to Scottish Government ministers, who have the option of calling it in. Councillors were also made aware of the potential for a legal challenge to their decision.
However, if the remaining hurdles can be cleared, the aim is to have a new school open to pupils by the summer of 2016.