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Controversial plans for 24-acre quarry in Aberdeenshire still in limbo due to ‘complex nature’

Beauty Hill near Newmachar, Aberdeenshire
Plans to build a quarry the size of 12 football pitches near Newmachar, Aberdeenshire, were lodged in May last year. Photo by Paul Glendell/DCT Media.

A controversial project to build a 24-acre quarry in Aberdeenshire has been deferred for a site visit due to its “complex nature”.

Plans to turn Beauty Hill, near Newmachar, into a quarry the size of 12 football pitches were first lodged in 2019 as part of JKR Contractor Ltd’s efforts to become self-sufficient.

Under the scheme, the site will be dug up to provide up to 60,000 tonnes of “high-quality” hard rock per annum over 13 years, which is expected to come to 500,000 tonnes in total.

This is expected to help the developers keep their business alive and safe-guard the livelihood of more than 150 employees at a difficult time for the construction industry.

But for the last two years, hundreds of people from the area, including three community councils, have been fighting the proposals in fear it would ruin their quality of life.

The application has received 250 objections with campaigners raising concerns over the proximity to homes, noise and dust pollution, road safety issues and impact on wildlife.

A petition to halt the project – which is considered as “the most controversial one” since Donald Trump’s golf course in 2012 – has also been signed by 743 residents in the area.

Meanwhile, a further 171 comments have been lodged in support, stating the project would be beneficial for the local economy and boost employment.

Members of the Formartine area committee have now postponed making a decision about the project’s future – more than a year after the blueprints were submitted – due to the “number of conflicted interests”.

It comes after the Garioch area committee recommended the planning application for refusal at a meeting in April.

‘The needs of few will outweigh the needs of many’

The committee was addressed by several concerned residents, who outlined their worries about the impact the development could have on the local community.

Jim Urquhart, who lives less than half a mile away from the proposed quarry, raised possible safety issues with HGVs accessing the site through the single track U26C road.

He stressed the track is also the only access route for several families to their homes and said: “I was shocked at the proposers’ lack of consideration regarding safety risks of HGV traffic being at such proximity to pedestrians.

“And I’m genuinely concerned that this would be a disaster waiting to happen.

“The safety of school children waiting at the bus shelter, which is planned to be at the entrance of the new access track, must be of concern.

“If this application is to really go ahead, sadly, it really does feel that the needs of few will outweigh the needs of many.”

Concerns over children’s safety

Locals have previously raised concerns over the use of the U26C road, which led to a change in the route to shorten the distance between the access point and the B979.

But Ceri Trevethan, who was involved in the petition and also shared her worries with the committee, said this leads to a schoolkids’ crossing point at Hillbrae Railway Bridge.

She added: “Many local residents have recognised that the existing narrow bridge over the railway line at Hillbrae Way is unsuitable for HGV traffic – and any increase in traffic raises concerns about the safety of those on the bridge and those walking under it.

“We walk and cycle on these roads, we know how icy the unclassified road is in winter when our children wait for their bus in the dark and we know that even when we are advised of average numbers, quarry HGVs most often travel in convoy.

“Crucially, residents think there will be significant adverse impact without any clear benefit for their local community.”

‘We need more clarity and answers’

After discussing the application at the Formartine area committee meeting, councillors unanimously voted for a site visit as many of their questions remained unanswered.

Councillors Alastair Forsyth said: “It’s very clear that this is a complex application with a number of interests that conflict each other.

“I think it would be very useful for the committee to acquaint itself with the locality and give the whole application some context from a geography point of view, as well as from scenery and wildlife.”

Members of the Formartine area committee are expected to have their say on the plans again following a site visit on August 23.

Read the Press and Journal’s investigation into the Beauty Hill plans here:

Battle for Beauty Hill: The controversial quarry plans that have rocked a quiet Aberdeenshire community

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