07 Feb 2013
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A string of heritage bodies have lodged clear objections against plans to extend a quarry into the protected “Buffer Zone” around the New Lanark World Heritage Site which also forms part of the Falls of Clyde Designed Landscape.

Cemex, a Mexican-based multinational, has applied to South Lanarkshire Council for permission to extract 3.6 million tonnes of sand and gravel from the area over a six year period.

The local community group Save Our Landscapes has been joined by The UK Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS-UK), the New Lanark Trust and the Garden History Society in Scotland in objecting to the proposed development.

This leaves Historic Scotland – which nominated New Lanark for World Heritage Status in 2000 and entered the threatened area into its Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in 2006 – isolated among heritage groups by inexplicably refusing to object to the quarry. In the nomination document signed by the First Minister, Historic Scotland had assured UNESCO that the area would be protected from quarrying.

Save Our Landscapes and ICOMOS-UK fear that Historic Scotland’s status as the government agency responsible for heritage will lead to the objections from other heritage groups being set aside by South Lanarkshire Council.  SOL and ICOMOS-UK have asked Ministers to “call-in” the application.

Why heritage bodies object to the proposed quarry

ICOMOS-UK is the UK Committee of the body that advises UNESCO on cultural World Heritage sites, and on whose recommendation the UNESCO World Heritage Committee inscribed New Lanark on the World Heritage List in 2001.

ICOMOS-UK stated in its objection South Lanarkshire Council:

“The destruction of any part of the landscape setting of New Lanark will damage the integrity and threaten the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site.”

The New Lanark Trust, which owns the historic mills made famous by Robert Owen, said in its objection:

“This is a key part of the Buffer Zone, having significant heritage value in its own right in relation to the history of the Royal Burgh of Lanark, and the glacial geomorphology which created the Falls of Clyde and effectively led to the development of New Lanark and the surrounding designed landscapes.”

The Garden History Society, which is the only voluntary membership-based organisation dedicated solely to the conservation of Scotland’s rich heritage of gardens, parks and designed landscapes, objected stating:

“In addition to its significance as a designed landscape Bonnington is included in the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site of New Lanark, a designation of International significance which alone should be sufficient to justify its protection… In summary it is a component of the scenic envelope which encloses the village of New Lanark, and as such contributes towards the overall setting of the village. The future management of the area should be to protect and enhance the setting of the World Heritage Site and demand for aggregate should not be allowed to override the protection of the area.”

Historic Scotland’s position

In its 8-page assessment submitted to South Lanarkshire Council, Historic Scotland accepts that the quarry would have a “major significant impact” on the area, but

“we do not believe that the impact will be significant enough to warrant an objection”

and that

“the degree of change is not such that we would wish to raise an objection.”

What Historic Scotland said when it nominated New Lanark for World Heritage status

Historic Scotland’s current position is very different from the one it adopted when it was seeking World Heritage Status for New Lanark.

Large parts of the nomination dossier were devoted to the landscape setting of New Lanark:

“The designed and natural landscape forms the setting and ambience of New Lanark and is intimately bound up with the value of the site.”


“… the landscape backdrop to New Lanark forms an essential part of its universal significance.”

Historic Scotland makes no reference to the nomination dossier in its advice to South Lanarkshire Council.

Moreover, Historic Scotland’s nomination dossier identified the threat of quarrying to the area. But the UNESCO World Heritage Committee was assured by Historic Scotland that local planning policy

“prevents its expansion into the buffer zone.”

The nomination was given additional force since it was signed by Scotland’s First Minister, then Donald Dewar.

Documentation obtained by Save Our Landscapes under a Freedom of Information request shows that Historic Scotland emphasised to the UNESCO assessor that the area would be protected from quarrying. The official that prepared the nomination wrote in August 2011:

“The buffer zone was based on existing designations in the development plan system. Therefore, an area where there was to be no quarrying could be safely shown to UNESCO as an adequately protected area.”

Save Our Landscapes and ICOMOS-UK request call-in by Ministers

Save Our Landscapes and ICOMOS-UK fear that Historic Scotland’s status as the government agency responsible for heritage will lead to the objections from other heritage groups being set aside, and has requested that Ministers “call-in” the application.

Save Our Landscapes, submitted a detailed 50-page objection prepared by its chairman Professor Mark Stephens. James Simpson (Vice-President of ICOMOS-UK) said:

“In contrast to Historic Scotland’s response, this provides a thorough, methodical and authoritative analysis of the proposed development, which leaves no doubt about the inadequacy of the applicant’s environmental assessment and the wholesale contravention of planning policies.”

Acting on behalf of Save Our Landscapes, John Campbell QC wrote to Planning Minister Derek Mackay:

“I regret to say that the response by Historic Scotland, declining to object to the application, is of astonishingly poor quality. I say this not because Historic Scotland takes a view different from that of my clients, but because their assessment fails every known test of intellectual rigour which ought to be applied when assessing a proposal which impacts on an area with the highest possible level of statutory and non statutory protection. For such a document to come from the Government's principal adviser on Cultural Heritage matters is, to be frank, an embarrassment to the nation.”

Professor Mark Stephens, Chair of SOL, said:

“As the Scottish Government’s agency for heritage, Historic Scotland persuaded the UNESCO World Heritage Committee that the landscape setting of New Lanark is essential to its value as a World Heritage Site and accordingly pledged that it would be protected from quarrying. Merely a decade later, it was telling a multinational cement company that it had no problem with the area being subject to precisely the threat it had identified a decade earlier. Historic Scotland’s position lacks any credibility. Yet its unfounded views might well determine the outcome of this application. This is why we are calling for Ministerial intervention.”

Public opposition

Meanwhile, public opposition to the proposed quarry continues to mount. Over 2,000 objection letters from members of the public have already been registered by South Lanarkshire Council. These are in addition to a 7,000 strong petition signed by people from more than 40 countries lodged by SOL. The Community Councils in New Lanark and Lanark have also made formal written objections.

This joint news release was issued at 19.00 on 7 February 2013


Professor Mark Stephens (Chair, Save Our Landscapes): (01555) 664 578/ 077 3333 8554


James Simpson (Vice-President, Scotland, ICOMOS-UK): (0131) 555 4678


More information

SOL website:                      www.saveourlandscapes.com

ICOMOS-UK website:    www.icomos-uk.org/icomos-uk-home/