Should The Harris Superquarry Go Ahead?

Rural Economic Development
Kenneth Mercer BSc
Rural Resources III
16th December 1994




There is considerable environmental opposition to the development of the Harris
superquarry. This is unlikely to stop the development on its own, but if the
Scottish Office decides that the project can go ahead environmental
restrictions are likely to be imposed on the operation to minimise, as far as
possible, the impact. The reasons for the development centre round the need
for economic development to bring jobs and prosperity to this remote area. The
life of the quarry is expected to be around 60 years and provide an initial 30
jobs, rising to 80 as the quarry reaches peak production. The question is if
a superquarry is the best solution to the problems of a remote rural area.
What will happen when the jobs come to an end and would another form of
investment not be more appropriate to their needs? Would the presence of a
quarry restrict the choice for further development? Could an integrated
approach be adopted and a 2nd generation quarry planned? The decision of
whether or not to go ahead cannot be delayed indefinitely as Norway and Spain
are looking at developing their own. If it is to go ahead then an early start
will give Harris a stronger position in the market.


This report examines the controversy and key issues surrounding the superquarry
at Rodel, Lingerbay on the southern coast of the Isle of Harris (Figure 1) and
attempts to find an acceptable solution. The quarry will hollow out the heart
of the mountain but leave enough of a shell to leave the skyline largely
unaffected. The whole question of whether or not it should go ahead or not is
the subject of the current public enquiry in Stornaway. A decision must be
made soon. The market for aggregates is limited, Norway and Spain (Section 3.1,
1991) have their own sites and are also looking at the potential for developing


(Glasgow Herald, 20/10/94)


3.1 History

1927 A detailed geological survey identified the deposit of anorthosite.

1965 Planning permission was given in principle to quarry the rock. The
remit covered a larger site than is planned today.

1966 Some small scale quarrying took place but found an on site rock crushing
plant and a deep harbour were necessary for economic viability.

74-76 Outline planning permission was given for quarrying, shipping and
loading facilities but this was never acted on.

1977 The Scottish Office issued National Planning Guidelines. Harris was
identified as one of 9 potential sites. (The Scotsman 18/7/93)

1980 Ian Wilson, a Scottish entrepreneur specialising in minerals, persuaded
Ralph Verney, the advisor to the environmental secretary, to recommend a large
scale study on the potential of superquarrys in Scotland. The Scottish Office
commissioned Dalradian Mineral Services - Wilson and Colin Gribble - to write a
report on the prospects. It was published in 1980 and listed 16 potential
sites including 5 key sites, one of which was Rodel. Many of the mineral rites
were bought by Wilson before he published the report, the rest he acquired
later. He sold his idea for the Harris superquarry at Rodel (Figure 1) to
Redland Aggregates, and if the quarry goes ahead, he will receive a royalty for
each tonne of rock removed. (New Scientist 1994)

1981 Outline planning permission was given for quarrying but it was not on a
large enough scale to be economically viable.

1988 The Scottish Office asked the Western Islands Island Council to develop
a policy on mineral extraction. This has still not been done.

1989 Government Planning Guidance Notes predicted a demand for crushed rock.

1991 Consultants Ove Arup surveyed the potential for sites and identified 12
in Norway, 1 - 2 in the north of Spain and less than 4 in Scotland.

Redland Aggregates submitted a new planning application to the Western Isles
Island Council.

1992 The Scottish Office issued a draft report which recognised the potential
for Rodel but found that socio-economic benefits needed to be balanced with
environmental consequences. (The Scotsman 18/7/93)

1993 A poll was sent out to 1822 islanders asking them to vote on the issue.
1109 replied, which amounted to a 60.9% response. The results showed that the
majority of the Islanders were in favour of the quarry. The votes cast were as
follows: For, 682 (62.1%) and Against, 417 (37.9%). There was a strong
regional variation though, the further from the site the people were, the more
in favour they tended to be. (Glasgow Herald 17/6/93) A week later this poll
resulted in the Western Islands Council voting in favour of the planning
application by 24 votes to 3. (Glasgow Herald 25/6/93) Western Isles Island
Council held a Special meeting