Minister rejects Scottish ‘Superquarry’

The Scottish Environment Minister, Sam Galbraith, has refused planning permission for the proposed development of a superquarry at Lingerbay on Harris, saying that there was no justification for giving the development the go ahead.

The newly-appointed Galbraith made the announcement less than two months after the Scottish Office Reporter in charge of the project recommended that planning approval should be granted. According to the Scottish Ministers “the Reporter has, in her overall conclusions, seriously understated the impact of the proposed development on the National Scenic Area (NSA)”.

Lafarge Redland Aggregates Ltd, the UK operating unit of Lafarge, the world’s biggest construction materials company, originally proposed the quarry and an on-site port in 1991 to extract an estimated 550 million tonnes of igneous rock over 60 years. On 3 November, however, Scottish Ministers concluded that if the proposal went ahead, “the overall integrity of the area will be compromised and that the social and economic benefits which the Reporter has found are likely to derive from the proposed development” did not “clearly outweigh the significant adverse effects on the quality for which the area has been designated.”

The Executive noted the Reporter, Gillian Paine’s, finding that “the detrimental effect on the environment must be regarded as very significant,” creating “an area of massive disturbance, involving man made industrial features, heavy plant, and disruptive noise.” Ministers did not, however, accept Paine’s conclusion that the quarry would be in the national interest and that harm to the NSA “would be offset by the economic benefits of the proposal, both nationally and locally in the Western Isles”. The company now has six weeks to appeal the decision to the Court of Session.

“The superquarry is an outdated concept which would have done maximum damage to the island’s environment at least benefit to the island’s people”, commented Kevin Dunion, Director of Friends of the Earth, Scotland, on the organisation’s longest ever campaign, begun in 1991. “We are delighted that the uncertainty has ended and that the decision has been taken in the light of current policy. Here we have some real evidence that the Executive is prepared to give a higher priority to the environment as is expected from its commitment to sustainable development,” he said, adding that new jobs would not have materialised. Like the Executive, Dunion believes that the demand for aggregate has fallen and England no longer requires imports from Scotland.

A Lafarge spokesperson told edie that it was “still too early” for any decision on appealing the Executive’s decision. “We are particularly disappointed that the arguments put forward at the Public Inquiry have not gained the support of the Scottish Executive, in spite of the fact that they were totally in line with Government policy and the Chief Reporter recommended that planning permission should be granted,” a spokesperson said.

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