While supporting the principle of purpose built student accommodation, a number of local organisations, including the St Andrews Preservation Trust, the Confederation of St Andrews Residents’ Associations (CSARA) and St Andrews Sailing Club, together with local residents, have objected to the University’s proposals (see Fife e-planning service). At the time of posing this article St Andrews Community Council had asked to see the University’s Travel Plan before responding. Overall, Fife Council has received 17 objections and 4 letters of support.
As previously reported by QV, the University has lodged a planning application to build accommodation blocks for 960 students, up from 350 previously accommodated at Albany Park, and a Facilities Building.
Concerns about the development include access, increased traffic in the East Sands area, inadequate provision of parking, lack of a travel plan for students moving between Albany Park and their teaching locations in town, capacity of the sewer system and treatment works, the design and massing of the buildings and their impact on the surrounding area.
St Andrews Preservation Trust has suggested that the proposals are contrary to several FIFEplan policies and makes a number of critical observations:
‘The amount of building required at this site would result in a massive urban design dominating the landscape setting of the East Sands and have a negative impact on the area.’ St Andrews is renowned for the quality of its beaches and is Fife’s main contributor to income from tourism.’ It later states that such a large development will have an adverse impact on the landscape setting both to and from St Andrews Cathedrals and the harbour, both A-listed structures’
It continues: ‘The need for safe routes for cycling and walking. 900 students (actually 960 – QV) at Albany Park added to the 200 at Ayton House adds up to a huge amount of people trying to get into the town along routes that were not designed for large numbers of pedestrians and cyclists trying to access the town’.
The Trust concludes ‘The main objection lies in the fact that trying to fit 900 (960) students into this site has determined a design that is not compatible with the area. The scheme could work very well in an city setting but density and massing of the buildings and the lack of adequate infrastructure in such an important part of this historic town leaves us with no option but to make a strong objection to this application’.
Like the Preservation Trust, the Confederation of St Andrews Residents’ Associations (CSARA) is concerned about the lack of safe routes between the proposed development and University teaching facilities as well as the detrimental impact of the buildings on the area – particularly their height, which it claims contravenes Fife Council’s East Sands Urban Design Framework – that ‘buildings which give frontage to the shoreline and the return on Woodburn Place should not rise above one and a half stories [2 where a change in level can accommodate additional height].’
Regarding access, CSARA points out that the Albany Park Application fails to meet the key requirement of Scottish Government and Fife Council policies in that it does not provide multiple points of vehicle access to this extensive development which would in essence be a cul-de-sac, as is the only access to the Scottish Oceans Institute via Woodburn Place and the East Sands public car park. CSARA states that ‘the car park is currently being misused by Oceans Institute staff and its primary purpose to serve visitors to the beach is being prejudiced, and will be further harmed by traffic generated by this development and student facilities building with a publicly accessible café, will clearly attract more car traffic, as will the Oceans Institute as it develops’.
St Andrews Sailing Club, based at the East Sands, shares the concerns expressed by CSARA about increased traffic in Woodburn Place and through the East Sands car park, a problem which it suggests will be exacerbated by the lack of adequate parking provision in the Albany Park development. It further highlights the safety risk of the mix and vehicles and pedestrians, particularly children, at the junction of Woodburn Place and the car park adjacent to the play area and main beach access, quoting from the 2016 Fife Council Transport Assessment the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) application: ‘The existing access to the Gatty (now the SOI) is very substandard, with considerable pedestrian / vehicular conflict. The East Sands car park is a very busy visitor destination, and coupled with the pedestrian traffic using the adjacent coastal path and haphazard parking, has created a wholly undesirable situation’.
The Club suggests that the Albany Park development offers an opportunity to rectify the unsatisfactory elements of the transport arrangements for the SOI and Albany Park, proposing that ‘such a scheme should include provision of access from both Albany Park and Woodburn Place to the the student residences and the SOI. Various routes are possible, including one along the rear (West) of the two developments. This would obviate the need to access the SOI via the East Sands car park, restrict vehicle traffic to the western end of Woodburn Place and avoid the establishment of cul-de-sacs in both developments’.
The Club’s other major concern is sewage disposal and it notes that over the past year, members ‘have witnessed multiple instances of flooding of the combined sewer system with raw sewage discharged into St Andrews Bay. This at a time when the University’s Albany Park residences have been empty. The University has not carried out an assessment of the impact on the sewer system and treatment works of accommodating 960 residents. It is noteworthy that, because of concerns about capacity and flooding of the sewers, Scottish Water has stated categorically that it ‘will not accept any surface water connections into our combined sewer system’.
Local residents have also raised many of the same objections, with near neighbours also complaining of the loss of view, proximity of the residence blocks to their properties and loss of light. Other residents have criticised the dark colour of the finishes of the barrack-like buildings which they claim will dominate the area.
The application is not expected to come before the NE Planning Committee before January 2020.