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Quarrying in Orkney World Heritage Site

Where next????

World heritage site faces quarry threat - John Ross, The Scotsman

Residents living close to an island quarry fear its planned expansion could affect an internationally renowned archaeological site.

Orkney Islands Council will next week consider a planning application to extend the islands' largest quarry on Heddle Hill in Finstown which is near the Neolithic sites of Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness and Skara Brae, classed as a World Heritage Site.

Opponents of the planned expansion by Orkney Aggregates Ltd say that it would breach council regulations and have significant visual, geological and environmental impacts.

Simon Treasure, who lives near the site, claimed information supplied by the company with the application is out of date and said that a full assessment would have to be made of the impact of the expansion.

He said: "Heddle quarry is highly visible, indeed it is the most visible man-made object in Orkney, seen by ships 50 miles to the east on a clear day. It is the nearest thing in Orkney to industrial pollution. It is at the top of a 400ft hill.
The south-west approach to Heddle Hill is less than 2,000 yards from Maeshowe and the Stones of Stenness.

"The western boundary of the quarry is probably less that two miles from the WHS. At present the quarry is only visible from the north and eastern approach to Finstown, not from the south or west. We recognise the importance of a suitable quarry within the county. Heddle quarry has good stone and has been in operation, satisfying a high demand from customers, for 100 years, the principal current customer being Orkney Islands Council.

"However, given the intense natural sensitivity of the Orcadian landscape and the importance of the WHS, it is felt that, whilst trying to keep Heddle quarry in operation, permission for any extension can only be granted after fully meeting the demands imposed by statutory local planning policy and of a fully independent environmental, visual and geological impact assessment process in the clear light of day and with the total involvement of relevant outside agencies."

He added: "It is our contention that the views of the hill will be affected from all sides, including most notably those from Stenness and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site at the Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe.

"We may be wrong. But there is no supporting evidence to tell either way. Blowing two million tonnes of rock up is not something that can be undone."

The application will be discussed by the council's environment, planning and protective services committee on 28 January. A council spokesman said the authority did not wish to comment ahead of the meeting.

Roy Brown, a director of Orkney Aggregates, said: "A topographic survey is being carried out and we expect the consultant to confirm our view that the World Heritage Site will be unaffected by the quarry extension.

"All necessary reports and surveys have already been commissioned, including a visual impact assessment and a botanical and habitat survey."

Susan Denyer, secretary of ICOMOS-UK, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, said her organisation has not objected to the proposal.

"We would get involved if we believe a development would be damaging to a world heritage site, but we have to be selective in the causes we take up," she said. We have looked at this case and although the WHS is visible from the site, it is some distance from it."

It is understood that Historic Scotland, a statutory consultee, has also not objected to the planned extension as it is felt it would not impact on the WHS or scheduled ancient monuments.

However a spokeswoman for the agency would only say: "We have sent our comments to the council but it would not be appropriate to make these comments public before the application is considered."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
23rd January 2004ce
Edited 23rd January 2004ce

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