Community backlash over homes and holiday lodges plan for notorious Fife quarry
Proposals to fill in a notorious quarry where an Edinburgh drama teacher tragically died and cover it with 180 homes and holiday lodges have been met with fury by a local community, which wants to see it retained for scuba diving.
Planning to fill in the waterlogged pit completely, company DDR (UK) Ltd says once-mooted plans to create a diving centre at Inverkeithing's Prestonhill Quarry are too complex.
The firm, operated by businessman Donald McCorquodale, has submitted an application for planning permission in principle to cover the area with residential dwellings, including 45 affordable homes, and log cabins.
Kelda Henderson was diving at the notorious Prestonhill quarry in Inverkeithing in July 2017 when she failed to resurface.
Her body was later recovered from the water.
The mother-of-one was a respected teacher at the Capital’s George Heriot’s school.
A cafe and upgrades to the Fife Coastal Path also form part of the plan by DDR (UK) Ltd following feedback from local community bodies.
The Beamer Rock lighthouse, currently in storage after being removed from the Firth of Forth to make way for the Queensferry Crossing, may also be incorporated into the development.
DDR's plans are a revision of those submitted by Prestonhill Developments Ltd in 2019, which featured both a dedicated scuba diving centre and 100 homes.
They are also much smaller in size than previous bids for housing on the site, which ran to as many as 500 homes.
However, McCorquodale's plans to fill in Prestonhill have been met with resistance from members of the local scuba diving community, who say it is a valuable training site for both hobbyists and the emergency services.
Craig Burles, an accredited scuba diving instructor, launched a petition last year to preserve Prestonhill that has gathered over 5,400 signatures.
He told enthusiast publication Dive Magazine last year that "probably every diver in Scotland's central belt" used the quarry from time to time, adding that it was popular with instructors.
And a survey carried out by the Inverkeithing Trust and Inverkeithing Community Council found that 81% of locals were against the housing plans, while 70% opposed filling the quarry in.
But while Prestonhill has been a favourite spot for local divers since mining ended 40 years ago, it has also earned a reputation as a hotspot for anti-social behaviour and dangerous behaviour.
Three people have died at the site in recent years, including two teenagers, while another fatality was recorded in 1972.
Police records obtained by DDR suggest there have been 65 incidents requiring emergency service intervention since 2016, with 24 of those occurring in 2020 alone.
A statement included in DDR's application claims the diving centre bid is "unviable", despite the firm's best efforts. The developer also believes the risk to public safety too great to justify retaining the pool.
McCorquodale has offered to adapting a former conveyor belt structure - once used to load rock directly onto ships in the Forth - as a pier for leisure boats and divers as a compromise.
"Notwithstanding that the quarry is a well-used recreational area there have been ongoing life endangering and nuisance/anti-social behaviour incidents reported over many years," the statement read.
"This has raised significant public safety concerns with the frequent involvement of emergency services, notably over the last year.
"There has been continual vandalism of fencing and, despite intervention, the applicant contends that the quarry has inadequate safety measures in place."
As a major planning application, the Prestonhill housing bid will be considered by Fife Council's central and west planning committee later this year.