A decision by councilors to reject the extension of a Dumbarton quarry after it faced fierce opposition from the community looks set to be overturned by the Scottish Government.
West Dunbartonshire Council refused to allow the Sheephill site to be extended in March last year after 20 years of debate.
Residents, local groups and community councils had hit out over the plans for years, expressing concerns about the historical and environmental impact of the work, including at the site of an ancient monument.
Operator William Thompson and Son (Dumbarton) Ltd went onto appeal the decision and a notice of intention issued by David Liddell, a reporter appointed by the Scottish Ministers, says he is “minded” to allow the appeal and grant planning permission.
An update will be provided to councilors at a planning committee meeting tomorrow (Wednesday).
In a report prepared by Peter Hessett, chief officer of regulatory and regeneration, he states that the reporter found the proposal to be “in accordance with the development plan”, with “no other significant environmental effects”.
It reads: “The only significant environmental effects are the visual effects of the extension from some locations, including cumulative effects with the extraction of the remainder of the quarry.
“However the reporter concluded that these did not give rise to significant conflict with the development plan.
“In respect of the other main issues it was concluded that there would be no other significant environmental effects and no conflict with the development plan.”
Mr Liddell also said there was no technical evidence which indicated that blasting from the extension area would cause vibration at problematic levels for any nearby properties.
He concluded there was “no material considerations which justify refusing to grant planning permission”.
The latest in the long-running wrangle follows two decades of debate over ‘swapping’ an area of land the operators have permission to quarry with another.
In March last year, councilors also agreed to a Review of Minerals Permission (ROMP), which updates the existing terms and conditions of the site to meet modern standards and working practices.
As part of that, William Thompson and Son say they would no longer accept one of the conditions attached to it – which removes an area in Milton Hill from excavation – if the extension was rejected.
This particular site is close to a residential area in Milton, with residents saying allowing operations to move towards their homes would have a detrimental effect on their living standards.
The firm has also appealed against the condition to the ROMP consent but if the extension appeal is allowed, it’s understood they will not pursue any proposal to extract in that.
However, the reporter states the quarry operator may seek compensation from the council because the ROMP conditions now limit the amount of material that could otherwise have been extracted.
In his report, Mr Hessett says the appellant has made a claim against the council for expenses in making the appeal, and warns there are “significant financial implications” for the local authority if the appeal of the ROMP conditions proceeds and is successful.
In November, the council lodged representations to Historic Environment Scotland (HES) over an application for Scheduled Monument Consent for removal of Sheephill Fort, which sits within the land.
The site has been described as being of great archaeological importance and a number of cup and ring-marked stones have been discovered there.
In November last year, HES said it was minded to grant consent for quarrying operations subject to a number of conditions regarding the excavation, recording and publishing of findings.
The application is presently awaiting a decision from the Scottish ministers who have extended the time period for consideration.