Suitability of the so-called ‘pond site’ for a new Madras College is at the heart of the latest spat between campaigners in St Andrews.
The St Andrews Environmental Protection Association Limited (STEPAL) is heading to the Court of Session next month to appeal the outcome of a judicial review into Fife Council’s decision to choose Pipeland as the site of the new school.
It is understood to favour a university-owned site at the North Haugh if its legal challenge is successful.
STEPAL claims the site is available if Fife Council is forced to go back to the drawing board, although supporters of the Pipeland site insist it is far from ideal citing its tendency to flood.
Sandra Thomson, STEPAL secretary, said Pipeland should not be pursued and said the North Haugh is not a flood plain but a “raised beach”.
“The school, by the way, would be built on the upper area, higher by about five metres, and in line with the university buildings,” she claimed.
“Most fairly level areas of land showed some signs of standing water this last week due to the period of heavy rainfall.
“But this area would be easily dealt with by BAM, the Dutch engineering company most likely to construct a new school. They are used to dealing with land even below sea-level.
“Even an underpass from this area to the great Station Park playing fields, probably the best in eastern Scotland, and precluding the construction of expensive, smaller and more exposed playing fields at Pipeland, would be above sea level.”
Mrs Thomson also dismissed suggestions the North Haugh is a natural wetland or conservation area.
She added: “It was agricultural land before it came into the university’s ownership and, having not been required by the university for development, was landscaped by planting some trees and making a pond.”
However, local councillor Brian Thomson, who is supportive of the Pipeland option, said the North Haugh site has a number of issues that make it unsuitable not least the fact that it is too small and would be separated from its playing fields by the busy A91.
“Furthermore, I’m surprised by the apparent suggestion that the site including the pond could be cleared and reclaimed,” he said.
“I assume that STEPAL, as an environmental organisation, knows that the pond is protected in the Local Plan as an area of habitat value, which should be ‘retained and protected from encroachment’, but the suggestion appears to be contrary to that policy.
“As I’ve said before about STEPAL, you really couldn’t make it up.”
A St Andrews University spokes- person said: “The university has consistently stated that it is for Fife Council to determine a suitable site for the school and it is not for us as an institution to argue about sitesuitability.
“That has always been a matter for expert engineering analysis.
“Our current difference with the council on Madras is entirely because of its repeated statements that the pond site is somehow not available.
“These statements are untrue.”