Islanders divided over plan to move mountain: Nicholas Schoon on a scheme that would provide jobs but scar a harshly beautiful landscape for up to a century

PLANS TO remove a quarter of a 1,600 ft mountain from one of the most remote and scenic parts of Scotland are expected to be approved tonight by the Western Isles council.

But while a firm majority of councillors are likely to favour a coastal 'superquarry' on the island of Harris there will be little goodwill for the developer, Redland Aggregates. It has upset the islanders by offering to pay what they say is a tiny annual sum into a proposed community trust fund.

Redland's chosen site is in an officially designated National Scenic Area - the Scottish equivalent of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It wants to excavate and crush 600 million tonnes of anorthosite over the next 60 to 100 years, hollowing out a vast bowl in Roineabhal mountain at Harris's southern tip.

Councillors know the development will scar the island's harsh beauty - the quarry will be visible from Skye, 15 miles away - and disrupt its communities. But Harris, with 17 per cent unemployment, is desperate for the 100 jobs the quarry will bring. Emigration has halved its population in the last 50 years.

When Redland applied for planning permission two years ago, representatives from the scattered settlements of South Harris formed a committee. Led by a Church of Scotland minister, the Rev Murdo Smith, its aim was to wrest the best deal for the community. The money would have been used for community facilities and to develop alternative industries. Redland was unenthusiastic but eventually agreed to pay pounds 5,000 a year, rising to a maximum of pounds 25,000.

'It's a pittance,' Mr Smith said. 'If Redland are going to ride roughshod over the hopes and aspirations of people it won't be a happy relationship.'

John MacAulay, a crofter and local historian, said: 'We feel very let down. This decision is going to fire off a series of superquarries along the West Coast. And what Redland can get away with here, other developers will get away with elsewhere.'

Redland says it has never paid into such a community fund before, and the development would boost the local economy through new jobs and pounds 500,000 a year business rates.

Just over 60 per cent of Harris's 1,800-strong electorate turned out to vote on the proposal this month; 62 per cent were in favour. In South Harris, near the quarry site, the vote split 50/50.

Redland's offer to the community amounts to about a halfpenny per tonne of rock extracted. The committee hopes that more may be forthcoming from the company's partners - Donnie MacDonald, landlord of the nearby Rodel Hotel and the owner of the quarry site, and Charles Wilson, a mainland prospector who owns the mineral rights. They are expected to receive royalties of about 5p per tonne, although a final figure has yet to be agreed. Yesterday, Mr MacDonald declined to comment until after the council's decision.

The rock will be removed to well below sea level. Then, some time in the next century, the sea-facing wall will be breached, creating an artificial sea loch.

Studies have suggested several other coastal superquarry sites in western Scotland. They are being touted as a way of meeting the construction industry's growing demand for aggregates without the need to expand extraction operations in the more densely populated areas and national parks of England and Wales. Environmentalists are fiercely opposed and Scottish Natural Heritage, the Government's landscape and wildlife conservation arm, has objected.

The outcome in Harris is likely to set a precedent. Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, is expected to take the final decision himself. But if the council votes in favour tonight, that approval becomes more likely.

Leading article, page 21

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities