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Kilmallie community councillors are to inform Highland Council that as far as they are concerned there has been no adequate public consultation on proposals for a new £94m aluminium recycling plant at the Lochaber smelter site in Fort William.
Alvance Aluminium advertised public consultations to be held online last month, including live consultation events where members of its project team were available to answer questions on its plans.
These could possibly involve what the company – part of the GFG Alliance group of firms – previously described as ‘significant upgrades’ to the port at Corpach to allow material for recycling to be brought in by ship.
But at this week’s online meeting of Kilmallie Community Council, the consultation events were described as inadequate.
Community council secretary Russell Leaper said some of those attending the online event were expecting to be given details of an Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] as part of the process.
‘We particularly wanted details [as part of the EIA] on things like their expected number of vehicle movements that would be associated with the new proposals, but that wasn’t available and I think a lot of people were quite disappointed with the amount of information that was given.
‘It kind of didn’t really feel like a consultation because no one could see any of the questions that anyone else was asking or any of the answers, so I guess we didn’t really get any new information.
‘We did ask if there was going to be another consultation when the new information was available and they said no. So I think the conclusion is that there hasn’t really been a consultation on these proposals.’
Acting chairman John Hutchison added: ‘They did confirm that the EIA would deal with the import and export route as well as the factory site, and communities along that route are very keen to find that out, so it’s really disappointing that there was a consultation without an EIA.’
Caol and Mallaig councillor Ben Thompson, who sits on Highland Council planning committee, and is therefore unable to comment on possible future planning applications, was however able to shed a bit more light on planning procedures.
He said he would expect any planning application from Alvance to be dealt with in the same way as SSE’s application for planning approval for the huge Coire Glas pumped hydro storage scheme had been, with conditions attached to the consent.
Councillors agreed with a suggestion from Mr Leaper, who said: ‘It wouldn’t be fair of the company to say it has consulted when it puts in its planning application because it isn’t really what anyone would call a consultation. I think that would be important message to be put through to the local planning authority.’
Asked to comment, a spokesperson for GFG Alliance told the Lochaber Times an EIA would form part of its formal planning application when it was submitted.