St. Andrews University (Building Site)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th December 1957.

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Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife East 12:00 am, 17th December 1957

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the division of opinion in St. Andrews on the merits of his recent decision relating to new university buildings in the centre of the town: which is criticised on the particular grounds that the procedure of the committee of inquiry leading to that decision was not in accordance with the recommendations of the Franks Committee, and that the West Burn Lane site may not prove adequate for the future scientific needs of the university; and if he will make a full statement on the matter.

Photo of Mr Douglas Spencer-Nairn Mr Douglas Spencer-Nairn , Central Ayrshire

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the joint opposition of the St. Andrews Town Council and the citizens of St. Andrews to his recent decision on the development of the university, and the fact that the proceedings which led up to this decision do not conform to the recommendations of the report of the Committee on Administrative Tribunals and Enquiries, now broadly accepted by the Government, he will order a new inquiry.

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Renfrewshire West

This decision was reached in the light of a ten-day public inquiry conducted by a senior and very experienced member of the Scottish Bar, in the course of which all aspects of the matter were fully examined. The decision was in line with the recommendations in his report, copies of which were sent to all the parties. The relevant statutes do not enable me now to reopen the matter. I am arranging to circulate a fuller statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife East

While we shall look at the statement in HANSARD tomorrow, arising out of that answer, for which I thank my right hon. Friend, will my right hon. Friend answer this question? If the university stands by the desire to obtain the use of the site, and if the proprietors decline to negotiate with the university authorities for the use of the land, what provision is there in the Town and Country Planning Acts to bring this matter to a decision? In particular, is there any provision for a further public inquiry, if it is asked for, at which both sides can state their case with all the facts at their disposal?

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Renfrewshire West

I very much hope that the need for any such considerations will not arise, but if it does, the university would have to ask the town council to consider the compulsory acquisition of the land which is required by the university for university development. It would then be for the town council to submit a compulsory purchase order for the approval of the Secretary of State. This would be subject to the usual procedure about advertising and objections. Objections which amounted to objections to the use of the land in accordance with the recent decision would not, under the terms of the Statute, make it necessary to hold a further inquiry.

Photo of Mr James McInnes Mr James McInnes , Glasgow Central

When the local authority has compulsorily acquired the site, under what terms and conditions will it be made available to the university?

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Renfrewshire West

That is another question, which I should not like to anticipate.

Following is the statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland:I realise that there is dissatisfaction with this decision in certain quarters both on procedure and on merits. On procedure, while the university's evidence at this inquiry was given after the evidence for the objectors, the lines of the university's case had been made clear in advance and their witnesses were subjected to Intensive cross-examination. In any case, the Government's broad acceptance of the Franks Report does not of course mean the reopening of proceedings already brought to a conclusion.On merits, I would remind the House that the inquiry lasted for ten days during which all aspects of the matter were fully debated, with a further day inspecting sites. It was conducted by a senior and very experienced member of the Scottish Bar as commissioner, wholly independent of my Department, with the assistance of eminent and independent planning assessors. The decision was in line with the recommendations in the commissioner's report, copies of which were sent to all the parties.The adequacy of the site for the future scientific needs of the university was one of the crucial points. What the university maintained was that the site was adequate and suitable for the foreseeable needs which St. Salvator's College, St. Andrews, would have for basic scientific teaching and research. Peripheral sites were available if any specialised research of a character necessitating the erection of special buildings were to be developed in St. Andrews while further expansion in basic scientific teaching and research beyond that now envisaged in St. Andrews could still he undertaken within the university at Queen's College, Dundee. The university's view that the Westburn Lane site was suitable and adequate in this sense was upheld by the commissioner.I am aware that this conclusion has been challenged, the Professor of Physics himself having recently criticised it as a short-sighted view, but the University Grants Committee is in full agreement with it. Nor is the impression correct that the university has now asked for additional ground at Westburn Lane. The Town Council have agreed to negotiate for the sale to the university of a small area not designated for use in the next ten years: but this area forms part of the whole Westburn Lane site allocated for university development and if it is available now it can be used to improve access to the part of the site due to be developed within that period.As has already been made clear in correspondence and in replies to Questions both here and in another place, it is not open to me to review the decision; nor can I seek to alter its effect by fresh proceedings, because no new circumstances have arisen with a hearing en the merits of the decision.