I received a letter from the NLC planning department the other week confirming that the decision to block the application to reopen Hillend quarry had been overturned by the Scottish Government reporter, and that no challenges to this process would be considered, other than on legal points.
Last Thursday night (22nd September) a public meeting was held in Caldercruix Community Centre, hosted by the community council and chaired by Billy Main, to discuss if there was a way forward with any type of challenge.
Alex Neil MSP explained how the planning process worked which was most helpful. Neil Gray MP then confirmed that he had received a letter from North Lanarkshire Council who confirmed that they were exploring legal grounds for an appeal. Councillor Alan Beveridge asked Mr Neil if he had contacted anyone at Scottish Government level on this issue, specifically the planning minister, and he stated that he had not.
Bizarrely a proposal was then made that the assembled group should send a message to North Lanarkshire Council requesting them to explore grounds for a legal appeal, and this was agreed upon, though it seems to have escaped everyone’s notice that Neil Gray had already confirmed they were doing just that anyway.
Residents had previously campaigned outside the headquarters of North Lanarkshire Council before the council voted against the development, and the idea of another protest was raised. Even though North Lanarkshire Council SUPPORT the residents and are trying to find legal cause for an appeal, the meeting was steered to holding it’s protest outside NLC headquarters! If I understand this correctly the only person who can now call this in and override the decision is the Planning Minister, Kevin Stewart. Considering that this has now moved to a position where only ministerial intervention can change anything I pointed out that the right and proper place to hold any protest was outside Holyrood. It’s also easier to get to from Caldercruix!
Billy Main and the community council are doing their bit and while I am not sure that this will have a successful outcome, I think they will give it their all to take this as far as it can go. The arguments have been made, and made well. It’s now up to Kevin Stewart MSP to take these arguments on board and do the right thing.