£600,000 pay-out for living next to Europe's biggest quarry

TWO small communities are to cash in to the tune of £600,000 for living next to Europe's largest superquarry.

The cash will be shared between the community councils in Ardgour and Morvern over the next ten years when the award will be reviewed. Payment will start when work begins on an expanded area of the Glensanda quarry on the Morvern peninsula in Lochaber.

The agreement is part of a growing movement to compensate residents in areas where major developments are exploiting natural resources.

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Highland Council has been campaigning for 15 years to secure goodwill payments for communities, which are now being paid by renewables companies for wind farms.

The superquarry, which has operated for 25 years and was owned by Somerset-based Foster Yeoman, was taken over last year by the Swiss firm Holcim through a UK subsidiary, Aggregate Industries.

It was recently given planning permission to extend its quarrying area from 303 to 509 acres, increasing the available rock deposits from 404 million to 814 million tonnes. It already has consent to extract six million tonnes of rock until 2043.

Dr Michael Foxley, the local councillor and council vice convener,

said: "This superquarry is essentially coring out a mountain from Morvern which has benefited very little in terms of either jobs or secondary employment. There is a direct visual impact into the wild lands areas of south Morvern."

He said he and fellow councillor Francis Keith had invented the concept of community benefit to ensure there was some lasting financial reward for affected communities after the failure of several big industrial developments in the Highlands to produce any lasting benefit.

"In the past, too many communities have benefited little from major developments on their doorsteps. This must be changed in future," Dr Foxley said.

The superquarry cash will be paid into trusts and will help pay for local projects, such as community buildings and recreational facilities.

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Jim Bolton, the chairman of Morvern Community Council, said: "We are often at the end of the line in local and national government initiatives and see little direct benefit as millions of pounds leaves the area by way of forestry, fish farming, hydro schemes and mining. I hope this will be the start of an era where those that profit from Morvern will ensure that the community also benefits."

Also in Lochaber, Sunart Community Council gets 1,800 a year from a hydro scheme at Glen Tarbet, while three community councils share 5,000 a year from a hydro scheme at Loch Uisge. A planned wind farm at Glengarry is set to bring in 16,000 a year for a community trust.

John Hutchison, the council's Lochaber area manager, said: "These community benefit settlements mean people who live close to the generating sites are able to derive some direct benefit and then decide how the money can be reinvested in projects that will develop the local area."

Elsewhere, the developer of a huge wind farm planned for Lewis is proposing to pay about 1.85 million a year into trust funds for affected communities.

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