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.
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.
This is an astonishing move, which confirms Sarah Boyack's
reputation as the 'minister for indecision'
Tory environment spokesman Murray Tosh
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
Lafarge Redland Aggregates has put forward plans to extract 10m
tonnes of rock which would be shipped out for use as aggregate on roads
It has been estimated that the work could leave a crater 2km long and
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.
He said: "It will leave a scar on
the side of the mountain, six times the height of the white cliffs of
Alistair McIntosh: Concern over long-term effect
"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.
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
"There is so little employment in the area, we desperately need
a project like this."
Green MSP, Robin Harper, expressed hope
that the minister's move would ultimately mean the end of the plan.
Robin Harper: Cautious welcome
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."