Letter published in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 13th March 2015
Many people will have missed the planning application 15/00428/MIN which was briefly mentioned in last weeks Advertiser regarding the proposed reopening and extension of Hillend Quarry at Caldercruix. The mere 25 short words slipped in to an article (and not on the public notices where you you might expect) does not begin to do justice to the scale of the devastation I feel this would cause to the local area. The current quarry which has a relatively small footprint would be extended to an area about a kilometre in length, and would extend west from Caldercruix to Annieshill and south to within touching distance of the Lilly Loch. Allowing this development would not only mean an increase in road traffic and air pollution to those in the surrounding area, but it would discourage walking and is contrary to local and national government initiatives encouraging people to access the outdoors and exercise as the high ground above Caldercruix is regularly used by walkers, myself included. It also has serious long term environmental consequences to flora and fauna and to the stability of the ground near the Lilly Loch due to the large geological fault line which already exists there, which poses a risk to the safety of the members of the public accessing land. Furthermore there is little or no prospect of job availability or creation in the local community or any other economic benefit. Instead residents will have to endure all the negative effects of this proposal with no gain whatsoever, and will eventually be left with a hole in the ground which will either be fenced off or filled with rubbish, which seems to be the two main ways of using former quarries in North Lanarkshire. I would encourage anyone in Caldercruix and Plains, which will also be affected by increased traffic and pollution, to make their feelings known to their elected representatives and more importantly to put their comments to North Lanarkshire Planning using the planning application number. This can easily be done online.
This does lead to a very important subject and that is whether those we elect are doing the best that they can to get the very best deal for those they are elected to represent. My own experiences of approaching some local councillors is that they often refuse to participate in raising community awareness about planning issues, fracking being a recent one which springs to mind, because they claim that they sit on committees which will vote on those issues. I would rather see councillors making a noise and getting public support against these issues than quietly dealing with them in a committee where they may be defeated anyway, especially if those things appear to have no public support, when they have actually just slipped under the public radar due to going unpublicised. I recently contacted Alex Neil MSP about signing a petition against fracking to be given a one sentence reply that said that as Planning Minister he could not support anything which he may later have to rule on. That’s fair enough, but it leaves the people of Airdrie with no one willing to speak up on their behalf on planning issues. Mr Neil is also the Minister for Social Justice, which deals with community empowerment and community planning, yet he is refusing to attend a meeting to thrash out the issue of Plains railway station. Nor does it look as though anyone from the SNP will attend in his stead. How does having an empty chair at a public meeting empower our community? It’s certainly not socially just, and if this is what we are to expect from Mr Neil and his colleagues then unless the communities themselves are willing to make some noise we can look forward to no railway station, another huge quarry on our doorstep, increased pollution and a windfarm on every horizon. No gain, just pain you might say. Hardly a positive picture, is it?