University to install new all-weather community-use running trail

Fergus Knight
Friday 25 November 2022

The University of St Andrews intends to fund and install an all-weather, floodlit running and jogging trail at University Park, St Andrews, for use by students, staff and the North East Fife community.

The decision to invest in the new, free-to-use 500 metre facility follows extensive consultation with students, staff and community members on the future of the existing 400 metre running track in St Andrews. The development will be subject to planning approval.

The current track is more than 25 years old and well beyond its accepted lifespan. It was closed following a health and safety inspection earlier this year after it developed a number of holes and damage to its surface. Industry experts have confirmed it is not possible to patch or repair the track to acceptable safety standards. The terms of the original Synthetic Sports grant, which helped fund the installation of the track in 1996, expired seven years ago.

In consultations with track users, Saints Sport met with student sports clubs, local community clubs and groups (including Fife Athletics Club, East Fife Triathlon Club, East Fife Sports Council, Disability Sport Fife, St Andrews Community Council), relevant governing bodies (Scottish Athletics and Triathlon Scotland), Fife Council, and Fife Sport & Leisure Trust.

Information, user views and evidence gathered throughout the consultation process have been carefully considered by Saints Sport, and the University Principal’s Office, and the University is grateful to all who took the time to give their views, and make suggestions.

Taking all the evidence into account, the University has decided:

  • To fund and install a 500 metre floodlit, all-weather jogging and running trail around University Park. The University has been persuaded of the need for a running/jogging facility which supports safe use by students, staff and the local community. During consultation, it was argued that a safe, floodlit facility was particularly important to female runners and joggers, for training and casual use. Although recorded track use is extremely low, it has been consistently argued that this did not take account of casual use which can be difficult to record accurately. An all-weather running trail, which will be free for all to use, addresses that point. It will be dependent on planning approval from Fife Council.
  • To remove the old 400 metre track. The track is unsafe, substantially beyond its predicted lifetime, and cannot be patched. Its close proximity to the busy 3G pitch means that even if it were possible to fund a complete replacement in situ, short run-off distances would pose a risk to pitch and track users, and are counter to modern standards of safety and best practice. Recorded track use is low, and sporadic. St Andrews currently makes arrangements for student athletes to use state-of-the-art facilities elsewhere in Fife and Tayside.
  • To resurface and extend the current 3G pitch. There is considerable proven demand for pitches at University Park. Contrary to what had been claimed during the consultation process, pitches are used widely by both female and male sports clubs and demand is growing: 41% of people using the pitches are female, compared to 54% of track users.
  • To work with Scottish Athletics and Fife Council to support and, if necessary, contribute to the development of a new 400 metre track serving North East Fife. During consultation, both bodies confirmed that they could not contribute to the replacement of the track at University Park. The University would hope to work with Scottish Athletics and Fife Council to leverage support and funding for a new standalone community facility development in North East Fife, and would fully support a collaboration between key stakeholders, including local community clubs and groups, to advocate for a fit-for-purpose track and field facility offering all-year-round access that best serves the community.

It is hoped work on the new all-weather trail can begin later this year, with completion in 2023.

“We’re grateful to those who took the time to consult with us, to make constructive suggestions, and to understand the challenges the University faces in replacing a running a track in its current location,” said Stephen Stewart, Director of Saints Sport.

“We have listened to the arguments about the importance of a safe running facility, especially for female runners, and the claims about the extent to which the old track was used casually, even if records show its use otherwise was extremely low.

“We’re prepared to invest in a new all-weather, floodlit jogging trail to answer those demands.

“We accept that neither Fife Council nor Scottish Athletics will be able to make any contribution to that, or the provision of a new track at University Park, but we stand ready to work with them and all stakeholders to advocate for a fit for purpose track and field facility offering all-year-round access that best serves the community.”

To read more on this story please head to the press office release

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