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Environment correspondent Louise Batchelor
"Environmentalists are preparing to congratulate the minister"
 real 56k

Friday, 3 November, 2000, 16:22 GMT
Minister dumps superquarry plans
Lingerbay
The quarry proposals would have created 200 jobs
Plans for a controversial superquarry on Harris have been rejected by the Scottish Executive.

The decision was announced by Environment Minister Sam Galbraith.

He refused Lafarge Redland Aggregates' application to extract and transport rock from the site, saying that any economic benefits would not outweigh the adverse impacts on the area round Lingerbay.

The decision, which has delighted environmental campaigners, comes more than nine years after the plans were first lodged.

The controversial proposals were the subject of Scotland's longest public inquiry.

Sam Galbraith
Sam Galbraith is the new environment minister
And two weeks ago a judge ordered the Scottish Executive to make a decision on the application following a legal challenge by Lafarge Redland Aggregates.

The company asked the Court of Session in Edinburgh to force the executive to make a decision after the then Environment Minister Sarah Boyack referred the plan to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Ms Boyack was told to make a decision on the plans within three weeks after Lord Hardie said the delay was of "scandalous proportions".

Announcing the decision on Friday, Mr Galbraith - who took over the environment brief after Sunday's cabinet reshuffle - said the scenic quality of the area was more important than economic and social considerations.

Impact 'underestimated'

He also said that the public inquiry reporter, who recommended go ahead for the scheme, seriously understated the impact of the proposed development.

The quarry company had applied to extract 550m tonnes of aggregate from Roinvenall mountain over a 60-year period.

It was predicted that the project would create about 200 jobs.

The biggest development of its kind in the UK, it would have removed half the mountain and created a new sea loch.

Opponents of the superquarry on South Harris are jubilant, and environmentalists have congratulated the minister.

Lingerbay
But supporters of the scheme have been left disappointed, maintaining that it was the island's best hope for the future.

The Scottish National Party's Highlands and Islands spokesman Duncan Hamilton welcomed the fact that a decision had finally been taken.

"The Court of Session judgement a few weeks ago was absolutely correct when it described the delay as being of 'scandalous proportions'," he said.

"The people of Harris have been treated with disdain throughout this process and the fact that the Scottish Executive had to be dragged into court to be forced into making a decision is a matter of profound concern."

He said the focus must now to turn to efforts to provide other forms of employment on Harris and the Western Isles.

"The loss of the proposed 200 jobs related to the quarry development must be made good in other sectors," he said.

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See also:

19 Oct 00 | Scotland
'Resign' demand over quarry row
18 Oct 00 | Scotland
Judge orders superquarry decision
26 Sep 00 | Scotland
New moves in superquarry saga
11 Sep 00 | Scotland
Inquiry backs superquarry plans
03 Aug 00 | Scotland
Quarry firm loses patience
12 Jul 00 | Scotland
New doubt over super-quarry
29 May 00 | Scotland
Call to end quarry row
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