A new £23m accommodation plan, recently submitted by Robertson Property for St Andrews, has come under criticism with local groups, particularly those based in the Abbey Park area.
Dr Sandra Stewart, a member of Abbey Park Residents’ Action Group, described the plans as “nothing short of vandalism,” and has said the group will “vigorously oppose” the development.
The plan includes a 100-bed student accommodation, 90-bed hotel, and 3,500 square metre park, similar in scale to St Mary’s Quad.
If the planning application is approved, Robertson Property aims to begin work on the project by summer 2019, with the buildings operational by autumn 2020.
Dr Stewart described the plans as “corporate greed.” Additionally, local councillor Brian Thomson joined the conversation to note that nearby residents in retirement flats were promised said flats would be “within a quiet neighbourhood.”
Katherine Mackintosh, the managing director of Robertson Property, stated, “There is a clear demand for a mid-range hotel, which will help to encourage people, whether in St Andrews for business or leisure, to visit Fife and help to deliver the Fife Economic Partnership ambition to increase visitor expenditure.”
However, Dr Stewart disagrees with this claim, saying the group is aware of three other ongoing hotel applications and that “the only time when St Andrews is full is when The Open is on.”
Dr Stewart has said that the ideal purpose of the site would be a community space, but she acknowledges that there is a lack of “affordable or social housing” in St Andrews, and the group would not be opposed to this development.
When speaking to The Saint, Dr Stewart said “As a group of residents we are not opposed to the development of residences for Students per se. We do believe that the site proposed by Robertson Property Limited is inappropriate. Most of the residents in Abbey Park are retired and there is a strong potential for conflict of lifestyles between Students and the resident population on this site.”
Paloma Paige, President of the Students’ Association, told The Saint, “A need for more student accommodation in St Andrews, whether that is in the form of private flats, University accommodation, or private halls, is clearly evidenced by the highly competitive housing market and ever intense house-hunting process students go through every year.
“This proposal may help relieve some of that pressure, but affordability and flexibility must be a priority if it is to avoid the initial pitfalls of Ayton House.”
She emphasised that at this point the Students’ Association do not have an official stance on the plans, saying, “Student consultations are planned to take place throughout Accommodation Week (week 8) and student councillors will be discussing the proposal later in the month.”
The proposed green space in the Abbey Park plans has also been criticised by the Abbey Park Residents’ Action Group.
On the financial aspect of the green space, Dr Stewart asked, “We pay for the maintenance of the land. Who will pay for the maintenance of this park?”
However, Robertson Property has said that the proposed park was decided based on feedback from the local community to create a green space as part of the development.
Ms Mackintosh said, “The proposals have been developed following feedback from community consultations we held in October 2017 and June 2018.
“We remain fully committed to engaging with the local community and look forward to providing updates as these plans progress.”
Despite not being able to vote on the application due to a conflict of interest, local councillor Brian Thomson has supported the residents’ group.
He said, “The development of the site is an example of bad planning, more about maximising profit for developers, rather than what’s best for the community.”