Questions over Lomond quarry failings

Lomond Quarry
Lomond Quarry

Senior planning and enforcement officers faced some tough questioning over their handling of Lomond Quarry planning consent yesterday (Wednesday).

Members of the scrutiny committee were presented with a report into the operation of Fife Council planning department relating to large planning applications and what lessons could be learned from the Lomond Quarry planning permission granted in 2010.

The Fife authority has received a deluge of complaints from Leslie residents since blasting commenced at the site in July 2011.

A committee working party with the mandate to bring about improvements in planning procedures was ordered in September.

As the Gazette went to press, officers including Jim Birrell, senior manager for planning, faced a barrage of criticism for failings of his department’s handling of various aspects of the Lomond Quarry planning application.

Among them were the lack of any correspondence between planning and environmental health officers regarding a blast buffer zone, the lack of correspondence between officers and Quarry owners Skene Group regarding ‘best practice’.

Councillors also questioned those officers continuing to voice what they call a “different professional opinion” regarding PAN 50 noise levels to the views of those experts who where brought in to conduct an independent review of blasting at the Lomond site, whose findings were accepted in full by the current administration when they were published last year.

Glenrothes councillor John Wincott said: “This report looks at what was not satisfactory in this handling, and what improvements can be made going forwards.

“While it can be said that it is easy to look back and see things that could have been done better, I believe this report has highlighted many difficult questions around the process that was followed with this application.

“They cut to the heart of the concerns raised by residents in their understanding of the planning process, and why some of the decisions were made.”

The Gazette will report on the meeting and its conclusions will follow next week.

When the scrutiny committee decided in September, 2013 to set up the formal working group designed to examine in detail the failings in some aspects of the planning procedure particularly regarding to Lomond Quarry, Dave Dempsey, committee chairman said: “Lessons must be learned and procedures introduced that bring about a more comprehensive and transparent process in the public’s eyes when it comes to the handling of large scale planning applications”

Following yesterday’s meeting the group will now draft a report detailing improvement to be presented to the Executive Committee for approval.

Councillor John Wincott said: “There has to be transparency in the process, and a clear understanding of the decision by all of the parties involved; the developer, the planning officers, the elected members and the local population affected by the decision.”