JUBILANT campaigners have described how a “two-year nightmare” is finally over after plans to create a sand and gravel quarry in a picturesque area of the Howe of Fife were decisively rejected.
Members of north east Fife area committee this week unanimously refused an application by Dalgleish Associates on behalf of Forfar-based Laird Aggregates, who wanted to form the quarry on 82 hectares of rural farmland at Kinloch Farm, near Collessie.
The application had been recommended for approval by Fife Council planning officers, who were satisfied that adequate mitigation measures were in place to offset concerns about road safety, visual impact, effects on local hydrology, threats to wildlife and possible health dangers.
But the officials were given a relentless grilling by elected members, none of whom was prepared to back the proposal - prompting applause from the packed gallery in Cupar’s County Hall.
As well as a 400-signature petition, almost 100 objections had been received to the plans, including one from Dr Jackie Hyland, public health consultant for NHS Fife, who was concerned about the health risks posed by the dust generated by quarrying activities.
A motion to refuse the application on several grounds was put forward by Howe of Fife Councillor David MacDiarmid, while Councillor Bryan Poole of Cupar moved refusal only on the basis that there was not a proven need for more aggregates in the current economic climate.
He received six votes compared with Councillor MacDiarmid’s nine.
The meeting had heard that approval of the application would have meant an extra 52 lorries every weekday and another 26 on Saturdays negotiating the B937, a quiet country road used by people visiting Fife Animal Park and Birnie Loch.
Applicants would have mitigated their impact by only allowing them to turn left when leaving the quarry and travelling 1.1km to join the A91.
The quarry - which would include a ready-mix plant as well as an extraction facility - would have been just under 120 metres from the nearest property, prompting fears about dust as well as loss of amenity.
Cupar councillor Karen Marjoram, who revealed that she’d lost her miner grandfather to emphysema caused by coal dust, said that this was a “huge issue” that should not be minimised.
“If it is on your windows, it is in your lungs,” she said.
“I would need an assurance that dust from this operation would not cause one single case of lung disease.”
Following the meeting, Jane Hutchinson, chair of Giffordtown Community Council, told the Fife Herald: “So many people have stated to me how impressed they were with the high quality of questioning by elected members. I endorse these comments since it was so very clear that elected members had taken great trouble to study the more relevant letters of objection.
“On the other hand similar numbers of people have expressed disappointment over the overly supportive role of planning and transportation officials in this sad two-year nightmare.
“I particularly wish to thank the many people - over 80 - from near and far for their tangible support in turning up in County Hall today. This demolishes any suggestion that opposition to this quarry might be the work of a small handful of agitators. It was particulary encouraging that the only argument which elected members had among themselves was the exact terms of reasons for refusal.
“In fact, the precise reasons for refusal will be less important than the fact itself, since any government Reporter is bound to review every single letter of objection anyway.
“Although it has been an excellent day for us, and several objectors are now celebrating, we must recognise the near inevitability of an appeal to Scottish Ministers. No one is getting totally carried away just yet.”