Leslie quarry owners say they have been vindicated

Entrance to Lomond Quarry
Entrance to Lomond Quarry

Owners of controversial Lomond Quarry near Leslie say their activities have been vindicated after an independent report ruled there was no link to blasting and damage to nearby homes.

Quarry operators Skene Group have faced a barrage of protest and ill-feeling over their actions since they commenced blasting at the site, with some residents living closest to the quarry perimeter claiming the explosions were the main cause for structural damage to their properties.

But an independent structural survey report on 17 properties by Waterman Transport and Development Ltd., presented to councillors at this month’s Glenrothes area committee, concludes: “The readings on the graphs (supplied by Fife Council) indicate the levels for vibration appear to be consistently below the levels that could created cosmetic damage”.

It added: “It is not possible to conclude with any certainty that vibration or noise associated with the blasting is directly attributed to the damage observed in the properties.”

“We conclude that the properties inspected appear to be structurally stable and do not require any greater than normal level of on-going general building maintenance, to maintain the structure.’’

A statement by Skene Group, who have always stated they have worked within the limits set by planning consent, warmly welcomed the report’s findings.

Neil Skene, managing director, told the Gazette: “We are delighted that this report completely clears our company after a long investigation that will have cost Fife Council a lot of tax payers’ money.

“Fourteen officials from the Council have observed operations at Lomond Quarry on both blast and non-blast days and they have concluded that our operations do not constitute a statutory nuisance.

“Indeed, the report says Skene Group does not just observe planning regulation but that our workers operate well within the legal limits on noise, dust and vibrations.”

Complaints from residents in the town increased after blasting for dolerite commenced in June 2011, culminating in the formation of Lomond Quarry Action Group, which has campaigned continuously on behalf of disgruntled members of the Leslie community.

The residents’ group was successful in persuading the former leader of Fife Council, Alex Rowley, into calling for an independent review into all aspects of blasting activity at the site.

The subsequent report by Capita Symonds made 16 key recommendations, of which one was the visual inspection of the residents’ homes.

Following the report’s publication, Mr Skene added that he hopes the company and the community can work alongside each other.

“The Skene Group has always said we want to be good neighbours,” said Mr Skene.

“We take our responsibility to the local area very seriously and, this year alone, we have invested more than £1 million on environmentally-friendly plant and machinery.

“We also employ around 250 people, most of whom live locally, making a big contribution to the Fife economy.”

Following the councillors’ discussion surrounding the report’s findings, Roy Stewart, senior manager of Fife Council’s protective services, defended his officers, whom he said had monitored every blast except one since 2012, with none saying they had found the quarry activity to have been a statutory nuisance.

Referring to individual blasts he added: “People are always going to feel it but that doesn’t mean to say it is a statutory nuisance.

“We cannot continue at the current level of monitoring that is taking place; our resources are being stretched.”

Councillors agreed to a further structural survey on the 17 properties in six months’ time, before reverting to an annual check to monitor any changes.

Councillor John Wincott questions report findings

A Glenrothes councillor, who has campaigned vigorously against quarry activity since blasting commenced in June 2011, has questioned the report’s findings and has called for a re-evaluation of how some of the monitoring is conducted.

John Wincott told the Gazette: “It is being said this report shows the quarry has caused no damage or nuisance since it began blasting.

“Unfortunately, the report doesn’t say that.

“It does say, ‘the first few months of blasting were the worst for effects of vibration, dust, noise and damage’ and also says ‘any structure with existing defects could potentially be more vulnerable to exacerbation from excessive vibration induced by blasting’.”

Cllr Wincott has also questioned the lack of any pre-blasting survey.

“Unfortunately, the operator began blasting without notifying the Council and hence there was no opportunity to survey properties before the first two large blasts had already happened,” said the councillor.

He added: “The dust monitoring also leaves much to be desired, with most of the monitoring apparently being conducted upwind of the quarry.

“I also asked at the area committee for monitoring to take place in the children’s play park in the Back Braes, since this is less than three metres from the Haul Route from the quarry.

“I have contacted officers separately to ensure the dust monitoring establishes whether the blasting is releasing any additional dust.”