By Caroline McMorran
Published: 18 August, 2006
A WIND farm company has been granted planning consent to open up two medium-sized quarries on hillside and in woods just outside Golspie.
One of the quarries will be visible from a plateau next to the Duke of Sutherland’s monument at the top of Ben Bhraggie, local councillors were informed earlier this week.
Strath Brora Wind Energy Ltd, a recently formed subsidiary of Edinburgh-based RDC (Scotland) Ltd, intend extracting over 150,000 tonnes of stone – equivalent 80,000 cubic metres – from the quarries, known in the industry as borrow pits.
The company were given permission in April to build a 19turbine wind farm at Kilbraur, Strath Brora, and need the stone to construct tracks to the site and for hardstanding within the wind farm site.
Members of Sutherland County Committee gave the green light to the borrow pits at a planning hearing in Brora Community Centre on Monday after hearing from the developers and also the sole objector, Rogart Environmental Group.
But councillors warned that the quarries must not interfere in any way with the new mountain track network due to be officially opened later in the year.
Brora councillor Rita Finlayson said: “I am no more delighted to think about borrow pits than I was to think about wind turbines. I actually had to ask what a borrow pit was, and I was told it was a quarry. It’s vital that we do not have any interference with the ongoing use of the track – that is really, really important.”
The quarry which will be visible from the top of Ben Bhraggie is to be located on a south-west facing slope to the north of Dunrobin Glen, about 4.5 kilometres from Golspie.
Councillors were told at Monday’s hearing that this quarry – called Kilbraur North – would be the largest, measuring 200 metres by 80 metres and with a depth of 22 metres. Access would be via a new track from the Dunrobin Glen road linking in to an existing forestry access road that would require upgrading.
The other, smaller, quarry, described as Kilbraur South, will be sited in mature coniferous woodland in Ben Bhraggie Woods on a south-east facing slope. The site is next to a forestry access road that joins the A9 at Wester Drummuie. This quarry will measure 100 metres by 60 metres with a depth of 10 metres.
Area planning manager Allan Todd revealed his department had just received an application from the wind farm company for a third borrow pit to be located on the site of the wind farm.
He said: “The southern borrow pit will be required in any event to construct the section of access track from the A9 to the Dunrobin Glen road.
“The northern borrow pit may ultimately not be required, or may be opened up on a more restricted basis, but in the meantime the applicants wish to keep their options open by progressing both the Kilbraur North and Kilbraur South borrow pit applications to determination.”
Wind farm representative Simon Green told the hearing his company had previously given a promise that no wind farm construction traffic would go through Golspie.He claimed that excavating stone from local quarries rather than trucking it in from further south would save 7500 truck movements.
Representing Rogart Environmental Group, Allan Tubb claimed the developers needed to substantiate more thoroughly why they planned to open up three new borrow pits rather than reopening existing workings. He said there was no justification for other than a single borrow pit for the whole development.
Committee chairman Councillor Francis Keith commented: “If, as has been suggested, the northern borrow pit is visible from the statue on top of Ben Bhraggie, then I would be very happy to see the pit reduced in size if a third borrow pit is developed on site. When the application for the third pit comes before us, we could get the intentions of the developer about reducing the size of the northern pit.”
Councillor Keith welcomed the suggestion from the developers that a liaison committee be formed and said it was important that it served all interests, including those of the mountain bikers.
“I’ve seen this happen before at the Glen Sanda quarry and it has proved to be a good forum for communication and has served to make sure that everyone knows what is happening, when blasting is going to take place and so on, ” he added.
Golspie councillor Ian Ross called for a detailed report, including plans for the management and reinstatement of the quarries, to be presented to the committee in advance of work starting.
He said: “If the area is going to become internationally important in terms of mountain biking then we want to be reassured that steps are taken to preserve the amenity and access.”
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