Madras College Pipeland plans row taken to court

Madras CollegeThe group that lodged a legal challenge against Fife Council’s selection of Pipeland as the site for a new Madras College has been urged to stop its “futile, time-wasting charade”.

The Courier has reported that St Andrews Environmental Protection Association Ltd (Stepal) — which was established by three former senior teachers of Madras College to “protect the environment of St Andrews and North East Fife” — will pursue its judicial review with “full vigour” at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, even though councillors backed the Pipeland site for a new school last week.

Stepal, whose named directors are former Madras rector Lindsay Matheson and former teachers Mary Jack and Sandra Thomson, lodged the judicial review in the autumn, challenging Fife Council’s decision-making process when granting planning permission in principle (PPiP) for Pipeland’s greenbelt site.

Although the council’s north-east planning committee voted in favour of a detailed planning application for the site at its meeting last Wednesday, Stepal is standing its ground.

Pro-Pipeland campaign group Parent Voice spokesman Luke Rendell said: “We are delighted that the north-east Fife planning committee voted by a margin of two to one to approve the final plans for a desperately needed new Madras.

“We are not so delighted in the fact that Stepal apparently intend to completely ignore the overwhelming democratic support for this new school, and we are, frankly, concerned at the misleading nature of their recent statement to the press, in which they claimed that their legal challenge could ‘open the door to a much better solution’, obviously referring to their preferred North Haugh alternative. This is false.

“If their case was successful, this would only bring Fife Council back to the start of the site selection process. It will not magically disappear the reasons why the North Haugh was ruled out in that process.

“It would be ruled out again, so the notion that, by this legal challenge, the council can be forced to accept the North Haugh site is a fiction and it is unbecoming for Stepal to try and raise funds on the back of such misleading statements.

“At worst, this challenge could lead to the school being constructed outwith St Andrews.

“Secondly, they have very little chance of winning their case, anyway — a recent review by Brodies LLP shows that in the period 2003-2012 only 7 per cent of judicial reviews of planning decisions brought by private individuals have been successful.

“There has not been a single challenge to a public building in this period.

“Unsurprisingly, with such poor odds of success, Stepal were denied a protected costs order, so potential donors should be very careful. Once again, we implore Stepal to stop this futile, time-wasting charade.”

Stepal last week expressed disappointment at the committee’s decision to approve so “fundamentally flawed” a proposal for the replacement Madras College.

The group, which has 150 financial backers, has “deep misgivings about Pipeland and says success in the Court of Session will lead to a better solution “both for Madras College and for the community as a whole”.

Stepal favours a university-owned site at North Haugh, which was ruled out by the council on the grounds of drainage and cost.

It believes the council’s decision-making process, when voting for PPiP, “failed to pay proper regard to material planning considerations and unfairly excluded an alternative site which provides a better solution for future pupils and will be infinitely less damaging to the environment”.

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