PLANS for Scotland’s oldest university to become the United Kingdom’s first carbon-neutral institution came a step closer this week - when plans for a biomass development at an old paper mill were approved.
The St Andrews University is to invest £25 million in creating a green energy centre at the home of Curtis Fine Papers in Guardbridge.
Since the mill shut in 2008, the 17.3 hectare site, which began as a distillery in the mid-1800s, has lain largely abandoned.
Now the university has been given planning consent in principle to convert it into a sustainable power and research campus, which will help make Fife seat of learning the first carbon neutral university in the UK.
It will also bring jobs and economic benefits to the local and wider area.
Fife Council’s north-east planning committee unanimously approved the plan and granted full planning consent for formation of a biomass plant and an underground network of pipes, which still carry hot water four miles to the university’s buildings in St Andrews.
St Andrews Councillor Brian Thomson said: “This is a very ambitious project by the university.”
Tay Bridgehead councillor Maggie Taylor said: “The university is making great use of this site.
“I was delighted to see that it is using the existing buildings.
“They are beautiful brick buildings and they are going to sell the bricks from the buildings that are coming down.”
The new campus will include teaching and research facilities for the renewable energy industry.
The site will also be prompted for use by private business in the same field.
Together with six wind turbines the university is to build near Boarhills, the green energy centre will allow the university to reduce its soaring energy bill which it says poses a major threat to investment in teaching and research.
It aims to reduce carbon neutral by 2016.
The biomass boiler will burn locally-sourced woodchips to feed a district heating water system.
Councillors asked for further information on where woodchips would come from for assurance about their sustainability.