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Owners of north-east quarry forced to cease excavation due to concerns over road safety

Councillor Mark Findlater
Councillor Mark Findlater

The owners of a north-east quarry will have to scrap operations permanently, infastructure bosses have ruled.

Neil Murray Housebuilders had applied for permission to continue quarrying at Westside of Forglen, Hillhead of Mountblairy, to the east of Aberchirder, after the firm began digging six years ago.

Yesterday following a lengthy debate at Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure committee, the application was narrowly rejected because of the danger lorries would pose on the rural roads surrounding the site.

Councillors were warned that they may repeat the mistakes of the local authority, which ignored pleas about Grenfell Tower should they press ahead with the plans.

The firm began digging for materials at its building yard in 2012 but did not have a permit.

However when it emerged the quarrying was being done without authorisation, they were slapped with an enforcement order which forced them to stop.

Following this order, the applicants lodged an application for retrospective permission to quarry at the site, believing a total of 2,000 tonnes can be extracted over the next five years on top of the 1,500 which had been extracted by January this year.

However the council’s planning officers opposed the scheme because of the strain it would put on the surrounding rural roads.

Quarry plans backed despite ‘frightening’ road prospects

And because the land required to build passing places on the narrow routes around the yard is owned by private landowners, it was the view of the officers that the roads issue could not be resolved.

The application sparked a groundswell of opposition locally and yesterday two people spoke in opposition to the plans.

Jim Bayne, secretary of Alvah and Forglen Community Council, addressed the committee and warned the risks of allowing heavy goods traffic to regularly use the road was too great.

He said the roads were too narrow and were already difficult for traffic to negotiate without adding HGVs.

“To ignore the risks here will have terrible consequences,” he said.

“Despite residents of Grenfell Tower telling Kensington Council that Grenfell Tower was a deathtrap in a fire they ignored them all and we know what happened there.”

However, Kimberly Murray, office manager at the construction firm, also spoke to councillors and dismissed the opponents’ concerns.

She said that if the firm was banned from further quarrying it would mean they would have to have materials delivered, which would lead to even more HGV traffic on the roads than if it was allowed to continue.

Miss Murray claimed the company had two lorries, but only one which was currently used, and on average it would only be on the roads once a month.

Banff and District councillor John Cox spoke in support of the plans and said that whatever decision the committee took there would be more traffic on the road.

Mr Cox said that the issues with the roads were shared by a number of routes in the area and to reject this plan would risk “sterilising” development in the area.

However Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford councillor Robbie Withey said while he agreed with Mr Cox, he didn’t believe that should mean the committee should sanction additional heavy traffic in the area.

Troup councillor Mark Findlater supported this and said it was an “emotive” issue which he felt strongly about.

“I don’t want anyone to get hurt here and I’m not willing to take that risk.

“It’s a residential area and there’s no space for traffic to turn safely. I think we should be cogniscant of officers advice and refuse this application for these reasons.”

The committee voted to reject the application by eight votes to six.

Speaking afterwards Miss Murray said the firm was “extremely disappointed” and planned to appeal.

“I can’t understand how they can justify rejecting this for all the reasons given in the meeting – it’s going to mean more traffic and an increase in environmental issues.”

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