Fife super campus: Plans clear next stage with council approval

The approval of an additional access road for Dunfermline's new "super-campus" development was inevitable, according to wildlife campaigners who say the council is nevertheless doing better at engaging with them about the project's wider environmental impact.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 7:57 am

Fife Council's central and west planning committee has approved the north-south road that will run along the eastern edge of the new Dunfermline Learning Campus at Halbeath, along with the car parks for the two new high schools that form part of the site, shared use paths and drainage.

However, the plans will see additional trees removed beyond that originally proposed, in the eastern part of the former Freescale site - equivalent to 0.22 hectares (around half an acre) extra. Council planners stressed that the plans had some degree of urgency, to ensure the campus met its target of opening in August 2024.

Planning officer Bryan Reid told councillors: "This application is primarily for preparatory works. Education have a timescale for this, which is why this has been submitted. A couple of extra trees are proposed to be removed."

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The new Dunfermline Learning Campus will be at Halbeath

Martin Willcocks, of the Save the Calais Woods Wildlife group, predicted that the approval of the plans would be a done deal prior to the meeting - but says that the group's campaigning for a more considerate approach to development has yielded results.

Among the 11 conditions attached to the approval of planning permission for the road is one requiring an ecological surveyor to be on site throughout its construction. Willcocks does not believe this would have happened without the group's persistent campaigning.

"The plans for the north-south road are the most detailed we've seen from an ecological point of view and I think that's because of us pushing them [the council] for it," he said.

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Aerial shot of the site of the new campus at Halbeath

"There will also be an eco surveyor on site for the whole project, which wouldn't have happened without us pushing."

Planning permission in principle for the wider project was approved in May, giving approval to the concept of the new Fife College Campus Woodmill and St Columba's high schools, a nursery, 225 additional homes, a pub/restaurant, a care home, assisted living apartments, a drive-thru coffee shop and a 16-pump petrol station.

Since then, detailed plans have been approved for an east-west access road at the south of the site, bordering the protected Calais Muir Woods, along with 105 homes to be built jointly by Bellway Homes and Persimmon Homes.

Each of the more detailed applications - known as "applications required by consent" due to their link with the planning permission in principle - has come before elected members thanks to the efforts of the Calais Woods group, which has always made enough objections to ensure it cannot be decided by council officers alone. The group is not against the super-campus project in principle - but it wants the development to be handled sensitively.

Mr Willcocks says he is "more optimistic" about the school now that Fife Council - along with building partners Bam - have engaged with him and the group to address their concerns about the impact the project could have on local wildlife.

However, he remains frustrated with Shepherd Offshore, the landowner that is selling off the site that will host the future campus. Shepherd is responsible for the actual infrastructure of the site - meaning it is responsible for some of the areas with the greatest ecological impact such as water drainage.

"Whenever we've spoken to people from education or involved with the school they have been very helpful so I can't fault them for that," Willcocks added.

"It's anything Shepherd is involved in that I'm worried about - their arrogance beggars belief.

"There's a lot going on that makes the local community unsettled, and it's really us explaining in detail what's actually going on and what's being done."

In all the school car parks will have 249 spaces and 17 bus parking bays, contained within a dedicated drop-off area. The shared use path will be three metres wide, while the road itself will be populated with traffic calming measures to deter drivers from using it as a rat run.

Shepherd Offshore has failed to respond to any request for comment made by the Local Democracy Reporting Service since March.

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