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A controversial scheme to extend a sand and gravel quarry at historic Kilmartin was due before planners this week.
A proposal by MacLeod Construction Limited to expand the north eastern side of its existing quarry attracted 261 comments – 54 of them were against the plan with 201 others in support and 26 having a general say.
Dunadd Community Council raised concerns that noise was ‘often excessive’. Other villagers have complained, among other things, about current noise levels from the quarry already being far too high and being heard inside homes – including a 16th century castle.
According to some residents, retired villagers can no longer enjoy sitting outside their homes because of the sound of crushing machines.
There was upset recently when the quarry upped its noise limit to 45 decibels without the nearby community getting a say.
‘That is the limit for quarries in rural areas but this is not a rural area, this is a village. The quarry is just 200 metres away,’ said Simon Hunt, who runs luxury accommodation at Kilmartin Castle with his partner Stef Burgeon. The couple have expressed fears the racket from the quarry could damage their business and threaten future growth plans.
However, a report from council officers said noise mitigation measures had been invested in by the quarry and that the most recent assessment demonstrated that it was having the desired effect with the works ‘practically inaudible’ at the survey locations. Environmental Health was also content with those findings.
Ms Burgeon and Mr Hunt say the only sound-proofing that has gone up so far at the quarry is scaffolding with insulation board cable tied to it.
A council spokesperson told The Oban Times: ‘There are separate ongoing investigations by the council’s environmental health service under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which are still to be concluded. The determination of the planning application and Environmental Health investigation are not interdependent. In the event of noise levels being determined to be a statutory nuisance, the council can initiate formal action under this Act.’
Yesterday (April 21) officers were recommending members of the Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Committee approve MacLeod’s application subject to 27 conditions but were also recommending a discretionary hearing so any objectors and supporters can speak.
Ms Burgeon said calls for a public meeting had previously been ignored.
‘This could be a win-win situation as long as the quarry puts in proper noise control like other quarries do around the world.
‘If they put up proper sound baffling that actually works then everyone would be happy. They could continue quarrying and the villagers could get on with enjoying their lives in peace.’
Jane MacLeod from MacLeod Construction Limited said as part of the planning process sound tests had been carried out by a leading environmental consultancy firm approved by the council.
Baffles and other noise reduction steps taken by the company have reduced noise levels significantly, although previous noise levels were ‘very close to and often within permitted levels,’ she said, adding the consultant’s report sent to the council indicated that noise levels are now ‘below background noise’ such as passing vehicles and birdsong, and are well within permitted levels.
There are no rock breakers in the quarry and ‘we do not crush rock in the quarry,’ she said.