Climate change campaigners stage quarry protest

Local campaigners and members of Extinction Rebellion Stirling have staged a peaceful protest against the controversial resumption of quarrying activity on Cambusbarron’s Gillies Hill.

Despite a long-standing campaign by villagers and after numerous twists and turns through the planning process, works started earlier this year after Patersons Quarries were granted permission for a track linking Polmaise Road to Murrayshall Quarry.

Stirling Council had turned down the scheme on the grounds of noise, the impact on air quality and road safety – as well as the extent of tree loss on the hill.

But a Scottish Government planning reporter upheld Patersons Quarries’ appeal against local councillors’ rejection of the plans.

A climate activist said: “During the pandemic, everybody discovered just how important green spaces were to their physical and mental health and there is now a renewed and passionate appreciation for how important these areas are for us and for wildlife and the healing benefits to us. all of being out in nature – something that is being lost on MSPs in the Scottish Government who only seem to care about how much money they can make by taking away our precious green spaces.”

A local campaigner added: “If this quarrying goes ahead, the air pollution and noise pollution will be horrendous and constant. This will have a huge detrimental impact on the physical and mental health of people who live in the area and all the people who live along the proposed transportation route that the HGV lorries will use. Not to mention all the people who used Gillies Hill for walking, running, cycling and bird watching.”

Campaigners had argued that the quarrying would bring a rise in CO2 emissions from lorries, noise, and a risk to schoolchildren’s safety as well as road users in Cambusbarron and Stirling city. The environmental impacts of quarrying and transportation of the materials, they add, also include air and noise pollution, water contamination, habitat and biodiversity loss, ecosystem damage and wildlife loss.

Local wildlife campaigner Mandy Cairns said: “The impact on local wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystems will be huge and far reaching. Animals will be severely impacted by the rock blasting and daily quarry operations.

“The lack of nesting sites due to habitat loss and the constant human and vehicular noise will have a hugely damaging impact on the birdlife in the surrounding area. There will also be damage to the local flora due to the high levels of dust which will also affect insects and pollinators, which are already struggling to survive due to other human activities and climate change.

“The delicate ecosystem of Gillies Hill will be broken.”

Jon Preston, member of Friends of the Earth Stirling said: “Twenty vehicles per hour will have an adverse effect on the local communities and active transport in the area, especially cycling, when we need to encourage more people to cycle for their health and to tackle climate change.

Another member of Extinction Rebellion Stirling, added: “Last year, more than 40,000 people visited the hill. They were walkers, runners, bikers, climbers, nature-lovers, etc.

“Quarrying is going to bring destruction and harm to the environment, not only in Cambusbarron. We believe it flies in the face of Scottish Government environmental policy and guidance.

“This quarry must be stopped, and the beautiful and historic landscape of Gillies Hill preserved.”

Local campaigners from Save Gillies Hill (SGH) group are also urging Patersons Quarries to save the giant redwood trees threatened by the excavation works. The giant sequoias each stand at a height of 164ft on the hill’s summit, and are understood to have been planted in the mid 19th century by the owners of Polmaise Estate along with four others elsewhere on the hill.

In March 2021, a Scottish Government reporter upheld Patersons Quarries’ appeal against councillors’ rejection of plans, lodged in 2018, for a track to Murrayshall Quarry from Polmaise Road, pointing out that the principle of quarrying at the site had already been established.

In his decision, reporter David Liddell said construction of the proposed track would not have the effect of changing any of the planning conditions of the 2002 permission, which he deemed allowed quarrying to be “re-activated”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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