I WROTE an article The Scotsman last September in which I explained that the proposed expansion of a quarry by the Mexican multinational company Cemex, if approved, would breach the buffer zone for the New Lanark world heritage site, which comprises not only the village but the famous Falls of Clyde.
Last week, South Lanarkshire Council approved this extension in spite of more than 11,000 objections, not only from Scotland but worldwide – including the opposition of the body that advises Unesco and firm assurances given by the then Scottish first minister, Donald Dewar, to Unesco when New Lanark was put forward for world heritage site status that no such development would be allowed.
This prompts several questions. What value is to be put on commitments made by the First Minister if they are subsequently ignored? Is Unesco likely to believe such assurances in future when the Scottish Government puts forward further sites for WHS listing, as it apparently intends to do? What value is such a huge number of objections from the public if no notice is to be taken of them?
Is an area that attracts 350,000 visitors a year not worthy of the greatest protection? Why did Historic Scotland, the body responsible for New Lanark not oppose the development? Why did Scottish Natural Heritage, part of whose role is to promote the enjoyment of the countryside, keep quiet, when it opposed the development by SSE of a large pumped storage power station at Spean Bridge, which will be largely underground and, unlike this quarry extension, of major importance to the economy of Scotland?
South Lanarkshire has an understandable desire to promote employment in the area. But Cemex employs only 13 people. It has enough material in the present quarry to last at least nine years and this would be considerably increased if the southern extension, which is not controversial, were approved. Scotland is not short of gravel and Cemex has another quarry in Fife. None of this justifies the overturning of the assurances by a former First Minister that the buffer zone of the World Heritage site would be protected. I hope that the Scottish Government will now call in this proposed development for its own decision.