St Andrews Preservation Trust has revealed it is one of the backers of the company set up to seek a Judicial Review (JR) of Fife Council’s decision to site the new Madras College at Pipeland.
In a recent circular, chairman Graham Wynd urged members of the Trust to support JR, telling them that a meeting of trustees had “fully supported the actions of those who were seeking a JR (ie STEPAL), and they voted to make an immediate donation of £2000 to STEPAL to meet an urgent need.”
The move has already delayed work on the new Madras by six months.
He continued: “However, noting that some members might wish to exercise their own judgement on this, trustees agreed that further funding should come from members’ voluntary contributions, and that, when the time was right, an appeal to this effect should be made to members.”
He told members: “We are told that this JR is an eminently winnable case. But the cost of mounting it is considerable - well into five figures. A number of Trust Members, including myself, have already contributed.”
And he urges them: “I very much hope that you will respond generously to this important appeal to help fund the JR, by making whatever donation you can.”
The circular also includes details of how to donate to STEPAL, including an offer to donors to use the Preservation Trust’s offices as a “post box” for donations.
Mr Wynd acknowledges “everyone agrees that St Andrews urgently needs a new secondary school” but says trustees are “convinced that Fife Council’s decision ... is fundamentally flawed and represents one of the worst planning decisions to afflict St Andrews in the last 50 years.”
But campaigning group Parent Voice has claimed that the establishment of STEPAL was a deliberate manoeuvre to protect the Trust’s assets.
In a statement Parent Voice said: “The precise nature of the relationship between STEPAL and the Trust is important because many believe the company was deliberately set up as a ‘disposable’ front to prevent those actually behind the JR being held liable for the recovery of legal costs should they lose, via a Protected Expenses Order (PEO).
“If the Preservation Trust is found to be behind STEPAL then the implications could be very significant once STEPAL’s financial arrangements are inspected by the Court.
“The Preservation Trust is a very wealthy organisation indeed, with assets of around £1.5 million, and with such backers there can be little basis for the application of a PEO since the likely costs are well within the means of the Trust.”
Mr Wynd’s announcement in his circular that STEPAL has raised a third of necessary funds is also criticised by Parent Voice: “After months of campaigning those launching the legal action have failed to secure even a third of the funds they needed - yet despite this they’ve already succeeded in delaying the desperately needed school for hundreds of pupils.
“We once again implore those behind the judicial review to drop their futile challenge, and to instead work to repair divisions in our small community.”
The Preservation Trust declined to comment on the issue this week and STEPAL has consistently declined to speak to the Citizen.