A MORAY quarry which ships stone around the world has been granted permission to expand.
Clashach, which lies around a kilometre to the east of Hopeman, will now extend to cover a further 2.2 hectares.
The development of the 5.2 hectare site will mean the Moray Coastal Trail, which skirts its boundary, will be re-routed further to the south.
Councillors agreed to the proposal by Tennants (Elgin) Limited despite three objections from locals, who feared the works could impact on tourism; views from the popular walking route, as well as the special ecosystems of the area.
Whilst the quarry lies in the Clashach Covesea Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Scottish Natural Heritage had no objection. The national body said in its response to the council's planning and regulatory services committee that the work would not impact on the nationally important Hopeman Sandstone Formation.
It stated: “These visible sandstones allow the study of complex dune systems formed some 250 million years ago around the boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods when this area was part of the ancient continent of Pangea. Studying how the dunes lie in situ helps us to discover what the environmental conditions were like 250 million years ago.”
SNH said previous quarrying activity had revealed fossil footprints thought to have been made by mammal-like reptiles of the dicynodont family. The body stated: “Without the ongoing extraction of stone, the opportunities to find new fossil material would diminish as they would remain encased in the rock. The potential value to science and research of the ongoing quarrying could be high.”
As a condition of approval, the quarry must continue to follow the existing protocol relating to fossil finds at the site. A fence and screening bund will also be built between the quarry and the re-routed coastal path.
Councillors were told: “The developer has undertaken to keep the re-routed section of path in good order and clear of gorse. With the diversion in place, access around the quarry will be maintained, allowing a range of users to continue to enjoy the area.”
Stone from Clashach was used at the 9/11 Memorial in New York and in the construction of Gaudí’s Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Clashach stone was also used in the memorial to the victims of the Dunblane massacre, located in the town’s cathedral, as well as for facing for the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.