Councillors tear up unauthorised St Andrews road repairs done by their own staff

Temporary asphalt installed on a St Andrews street is to be torn out after permission was refused by councillors.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 6:11 pm
Queens Garden, St Andrews

Transport officers from Fife Council started replacing old pre-cast concrete paving in September before being told they needed a permit because Queen's Gardens falls within the town's central conservation area.

Their half-finished works have now been refused consent after Councillor Linda Holt tabled a motion at the north east planning committee, and they have vowed to replace it with "a more appropriate surface".

Cllr Holt told the meeting: "I notice that transportation are going for asphalt because it's cheaper, but sometimes we have to stand up for quality and retaining quality for a quality place like St Andrews.

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"We've just had a Fife Council budget where there was a £10 million boost for transport and this is something we have to decide we can afford."

By means of a concession, transport officers had proposed traditional Caithness slabs for the north end of the street outside the B-listed Town Hall that would match similar paving on the adjoining South Street.

They argued that paving the entire pavement with the matching slabs would be "cost prohibitive" - four times more than the asphalt works. As a "secondary" street, they said, Queen's Gardens was not afforded the same privileges as main thoroughfares such as South Street.

While council planning chief Alastair Hamilton said he didn't buy "the argument that tarmac is so fundamentally unacceptable in this context," local residents, councillors and the council's own heritage officer disagreed.

Derek Crowe, senior transportation manager, apologised for what he called "any confusion around the process" that led to planning permission being sought.

He added: "On this occasion the process has not worked well. We will review this with colleagues to improve in the future and replace the temporary surfacing with a more appropriate surface."

While the pavement plans were refused, officers dodged a bullet when it came to another retrospective application for street lamps on the same road.

The taller, "Windsor" style street lamps are around five metres tall and replace older three metre-tall posts that officers say are obsolete.

However residents say the lights are out-of-character for the area and shine invasively into residential first-floor bedrooms.

Ten objections were lodged against the lamps and a motion to reject it was narrowly thwarted by an amended proposal from Cllr Jane Ann Liston.

She proposed a compromise, accepted by the committee, that will see dwelling-facing lamp faces shielded to address privacy and amenity concerns.

The split decision is half a victory for residents of the area who had objected to both proposals.

Professor Richard Olver, chair of the Queen's Gardens and Queen's Terrace Residents Association, said Fife Council had, in effect, hoped to "mark its own homework" by seeking permission after works had been completed.

"We didn't buy the argument that the asphalt would be easier to maintain, and we would prefer the stone slabs like those in South Street," he said.

"We were very keen that Fife Council didn't set a precedent with asphalt pavements in this area.

"I think it took us as residents for granted and thought it could do what it liked - and we've proved it wrong."

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