The former rector of Madras College who is leading a legal challenge against Fife Council’s granting of planning permission in principle for a new school at Pipeland expects a decision from the Court of Session within three months.
Lindsay Matheson rector of Madras from 1997 to 2007 told The Courier as the second and final day of a judicial review hearing before Lord Doherty ended in Edinburgh: “The issues have been wellcovered and now it’s in the hands of the judge. We expect it’ll take two or three months for a decision.
“It’s not a beauty contest between the two sites; it’s about the lawfulness of the process. You could say it’s now half-time and we’re having the oranges.”
Mr Matheson, who along with former Madras teachers Sandra Thomson and Mary Jack, is a named director of the St Andrews Environmental Protection Association Ltd (Stepal), lodged the judicial review in the autumn.
Stepal is challenging the 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 over what it sees as the council’s “fundamentally flawed” Pipeland decision.
At the first day of the hearing on Tuesday, Stepal’s advocate representative James Findlay claimed the council had failed to give adequate consideration to the university-owned North Haugh site being developed for a new Madras College.
The legal challenge claimed the construction of an underpass or bridge linking the so-called ‘pond site’ at North Haugh and the council-owned Station Park on the other side of the A91 would be the best combined option and they had not been adequately considered together.
But the council’s legal representative said Pipeland was the only site that met the criteria of “availability, affordability, deliverability and feasibility”.
An excambion deal offered by the university to swap Madras South Street (worth £3.5m) for North Haugh (worth £330,000) was deemed inappropriate by the council as it would not equate to best value. Flood-risk problems were also identified at North Haugh.
The court heard previous talks with the university had been “problematic, time-consuming and ultimately unsuccessful”.
Wednesday’s proceedings continued with legal examination of the process of the council’s legal team. Had Fife Council given enough “weighting” to the other sites? How influential had an HMIE report into the state of the current Madrasbuildings been in forcing a decision? Why did Mr Matheson and the Stepal directors not raise the underpass when they lodged objections under their previous pro-North Haugh Campaign for a new Madras?
How should a balance be struck between education needs/planning guidelines and the urgent need for a new secondary school in St Andrews?
The council legal representative said the needs of the education authority should be a material consideration.
But Stepal’s representative said previous university problems were insignificant, as a letter from the university had confirmed continued availability of the pond site at North Haugh. He also claimed it was wrong for the council as education authority to “dictate” planning matters.
He also claimed last week’s north-east Fife planning committee approval of detailed planning permission should be ignored legally, as councillors were not allowed to rediscuss the principle of development at Pipeland.