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 BBC Harris Conservation - Superquarry


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Environment correspondent Louise Batchelor
"The minister's effectively come up with more ammunition against the plan"
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Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
New doubt over super-quarry
A planning inquiry ended five years ago
A scheme to create Europe's biggest quarry in the Western Isles could be killed off by plans to turn the site into a conservation area.

Environment Minister, Sarah Boyack, has asked Scottish Natural Heritage to investigate the possibility of protecting Lingerbay on the island of Harris with the special status.

The Scottish Executive has delayed a final decision on the super-quarry application by Lafarge Redland Aggregates, more than five years after a public inquiry into the controversial development.

This is an astonishing move, which confirms Sarah Boyack's reputation as the 'minister for indecision'

Tory environment spokesman Murray Tosh
However, the minister has now begun a process which could stop it going ahead altogether and put an end to Scotland's longest-running and most expensive planning application.

Ms Boyack said the area housed several types of habitat which could justify imposing protection measures.

She has refused to be drawn on what the final decision might be but promised to consider the inquiry findings in detail before announcing a conclusion.

Lafarge Redland Aggregates has put forward plans to extract 10m tonnes of rock which would be shipped out for use as aggregate on roads and railways.

Large crater

It has been estimated that the work could leave a crater 2km long and 1km wide.

The public inquiry sat for 100 days, heard more than 100 witnesses and received between 400 and 500 submissions.

Alistair McIntosh, of the Centre for Human Ecology, said the minister should be moved to reject the application.

Alistair McIntosh
Alistair McIntosh: Concern over long-term effect
He said: "It will leave a scar on the side of the mountain, six times the height of the white cliffs of Dover.

"Thirty-six tonnes of explosive, according to the draft public inquiry report, will be used each week.

"When that is multiplied up over the 60 year life of the quarry it's equivalent to dropping six Hiroshima-sized atom bombs on a national scenic area of Scotland."

While a recent referendum suggested most local people opposed the super-quarry plan, it has also received support on the island.

Local backing

Resident John McLeod said: "There are areas which have already been worked as a quarry. The place has been left in a bit of a mess and could do with being tidied up.

"One solution would be to build a quarry there and also create employment.

"There is so little employment in the area, we desperately need a project like this."

Robin Harper
Robin Harper: Cautious welcome
Green MSP, Robin Harper, expressed hope that the minister's move would ultimately mean the end of the plan.

However, he added: "The situation will have to be monitored carefully to ensure that the Scottish Executive is not planning development by stealth.

"There is a possibility that, should SNH fail to come up with the evidence needed to designate Harris as a special area of conservation, the Scottish Executive will use this as an excuse to give the go-ahead for the superquarry."

The Scottish Tories' environment spokesman, Murray Tosh MSP, "This is an astonishing move, which confirms Sarah Boyack's reputation as the 'minister for indecision.'

"The Lingerbay saga has dragged on now for more than four years and what's needed is a final decision on the planning application, not further procrastination from the minister."

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29 May 00 | Scotland
Call to end quarry row
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