By JOHN ROBERTSON
THE SIC has been forced to act to reinstate a quarry at Sullom left in a dangerous state after the company working it went bust.
When Nicolson Plant got permission in 2000 to take 50,000 tonnes of red granite rock from Haggrister the council failed to secure a bond from the company to pay for returning the quarry to a safe condition if Nicolson failed to honour its 10-year-contract.
Eight months ago English-owned Nicolson did walk away after going down with debts of £5.5 million. The council, as landlord of the Busta Estate, was left with the legal responsibility of making the disused quarry safe and reinstating the area before its return to agricultural use.
Council asset and properties manager Alan Rolfe confirmed yesterday there were dangerous cracks in the vertical cliff-faces of the quarry which needed to be sloped off and made safe. He said the works required to remedy the situation and reinstate the area would have cost “a significant sum of money” from the public purse had the authority not agreed to a cunning alternative plan.
With good demand for the red chips that can be produced from crushing Haggrister rock, the council has struck a deal with the new owners of Nicolson Plant’s assets, local firm Garriock Brothers, who will get to extract 17,000 tonnes of stone while making the quarry safe and reinstating part of the hole on the council’s behalf over the next two years.
Garriocks will crush the stone into aggregates at its nearby Sullom Mine, removing around 180 tonnes a week.
Mr Rolfe said: “The deal saves the council some money. In effect we’re getting it done for nothing in return for the value of the stone that can be extracted.
“As far as we’re concerned it’s a fairly small task that we had to do because of the condition that the quarry was left in and this is just the best arrangement we could get to have the quarry left safe.”
Some of the work may have to begin immediately on safety grounds, even before planning permission for the venture is considered. A planning application for reinstatement was lodged this week.
Mr Rolfe could not explain why no bond had been required of Nicolson by council officials when the company was granted permission to work the quarry.
Recently council officials also discovered that Nicolson had not stuck to planning rules during the seven years it quarried Haggrister and had extended the works into areas it was not permitted to dig from. Mr Rolfe said it was not a big deviation and few people would have noticed it.
Nicolson was behind a controversial plan to open a super-quarry at Sullom to extract up to two million tonnes of rock each year for export. The venture was dropped in 2005.