According to The Times newspaper, campaigners have demanded tough new guidelines to protect Scotland's world heritage sites after Cemex successfully challenged the Scottish Ministers decision blocking the expansion of Hyndford Quarry near the New Lanark World Heritage Site.

Neil mentioned this case in his post Call-in by Scottish Ministers - noting that it was called-in because of potential impact on the World Heritage Site, although there was no objection by Historic Scotland. Although the Reporters recommended that permission be granted, the Ministers granted permission for the south extension only.

Both the call-in, and the decision not to follow the recommendation in full, are examples of the Ministers acting to protect World Heritage Sites. These are also examples of how the outcome is ultimately a matter of planning judgment.

As a lawyer, it is interesting that, although there are specific statutory duties in relation to listed buildings and conservation areas, there are none for World Heritage Sites (although there are restrictions on permitted development rights, and there will often be listed buildings and/ or conservation areas within World Heritage Sites, triggering those protections - for example, the Forth Bridge is a listed building and a World Heritage Site).

The protection which is available:

  • the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SOUV) along with the Management Plan secure UNESCO's designation of a candidate site;
  • Scottish Planning Policy requires that planning authorities preserve and protect the Outstanding Universal Value of such a site; the SOUV is the key reference for future effective protection and management of a designated site;
  • relevant local development plans include policies to protect and preserve the Outstanding Universal Value;
  • listed building and conservation area protection is available to support the development plan policies, and the Scottish Ministers have the power to call in applications for planning permission affecting such sites.

It will be interesting to see how these protections affect the outcome of the Hyndford Quarry application. The current position is that the Court of Session quashed the Scottish Ministers' decision on the basis that the Ministers had failed to provide adequate reasons. The Scottish Ministers will have to redetermine the application.