Unique trees could yet scupper latest Madras College bid

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An artist impression of the North Haugh.

Those challenging the route of a road to the new Madras College have been urged to remember the years of delay already suffered.

The link road from the A91 to Langlands, where it is proposed to build the £50 million secondary school for St Andrews, would run through a nationally recognised arboretum and habitats of protected animal species.

Several prized trees would have to be chopped down and objectors to a planning application by St Andrews West LLP fear the carriageway would have a devastating impact on wildlife and have urged the consortium to alter its route.

A spokesperson for Parent Voice, the group campaigning for the school to be built as soon as possible, said: “We respect the views of anyone who expresses an opinion on a planning matter, however the consultation has made absolutely clear that there is overwhelming community support for a new Madras College at Langlands.

“We would ask those objecting to the road to look into the history of the decade-long fight that’s already created so much division just to have a school that’s fit for purpose for the children of the area.”

St Andrews LLP, which is behind plans for more than 1,000 new homes, has applied for planning permission for the first section of the link road to the St Andrews West expansion to allow work on the school to begin.

Another route considered which avoided the arboretum was ruled out due to issues including flood risk and constraints on St Andrews University which owns the land.

The Tree Register of the British Isles, which records 28 of the trees at North Haugh as ‘champion’ specimens, is among the objectors.

Director David Alderman said the North Haugh Arboretum was a collection of great national botanical interest, with one tree unique to the UK.

He stated: “Many of the trees at North Haugh are only found elsewhere in the UK in large botanical gardens.

“A few are only represented by a handful of other know specimens, whilst Acer rubrum ‘Gerling’ has never been recorded at specimen tree size before in Britain.

“In our opinion this makes the arboretum at North Haugh a collection of national importance and, together with St Andrews Botanic Garden, one of the best botanical collections of trees in Scotland.”

Robert Mitchell, emeritus curator of the botanic garden, said it was commendable a site had been found for the school but claimed the access road would “destroy” trees of national importance.

Scottish Natural Heritage said it was concerned by the potential impacts on legally protected species including badgers, red squirrels, bats and otter and recommended licensing and mitigation issues be considered before work is carried out.

The road would run from a roundabout on the A91 by Station Park west of the North Haugh pond to provide access to the new school.

Identical tree species to those felled would be planted in an arboretum walk and measures to protect wildlife would include badger tunnels, culverting of the Swilken Burn to allow otter movement and linking of pine tree areas.

A planning application for the school is expected in the new year.

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