ENVIRONMENTALISTS celebrated the end of one of their longest-running campaigns in Scotland yesterday when the company behind plans for a superquarry in the Western Isles finally admitted defeat.

In January, judges at the Court of Session told Lafarge Aggregates that it could not use planning permission granted in 1965 to quarry a 600-hectare site at Lingerbay on Harris.

In a statement released yesterday, the French company said it was withdrawing the plans for what would have been Britain's biggest quarry and would not pursue a second appeal dating from 1991.

Environmental groups and residents were bitterly opposed to the project throughout. They said the quarry would have left a scar six times higher than the white cliffs of Dover and reduced the Roineabhal mountain to a sea loch.

Duncan Maclaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, welcomed the end of a protracted legal saga.

''Lafarge's decision is without doubt the only responsible and ethical decision that could have been taken,'' he said. ''It's just a shame it has taken so long to reach this day.''

Alison Mitchell, chairman of Ramblers Association Scotland, said the decision lifted a ''dark cloud'' that had hung over the Western Isles for a decade. ''At long last it appears that the magnificent landscape of Harris will be safe from the impact of huge-scale industrial development,'' she said.

The quarry would have produced 10 million tons of rock a year for building roads and railways across Europe.

However, the Scottish Executive refused permission for the superquarry in 2000 after 10 years of wrangling.

Lafarge attempted to use consent granted by the former Inverness County Council in 1965 to force the (pounds) 70m plans through, but were told earlier this year that the permission only covered limited areas of the site.

A spokesman for the company said: ''We were pursuing the normal course of justice but having taken account of the recent decision we felt that taking further legal action could last a long time.

''We didn't want to draw it out any further.''

However he added that quarrying was vital for the construction industry.

''Lafarge says that the problem of sourcing medium and long-term supplies of mineral in the UK remains unresolved and calls for a serious public debate about where the building materials of the future will come from,'' he said.

Alasdair Morrison, Western Isles MSP, said: ''I'm glad that the matter has finally been resolved, we all know where we stand and the development and the regeneration of Harris remains a priority, as does the rejuvenation of all parts of my constituency.''

However, Morag Munro, Harris councillor, pointed out that the quarry had local supporters.

''Those who were concerned about the effects of the development will be relieved, while those who believed it would be of benefit to Harris will be disappointed,'' she said.

Although she welcomed the end to the uncertainty, she said the Scottish Executive must take some of the blame for the delay and re-examine existing planning laws. Attention should also be devoted to arresting the decline in Harris' population, Mrs Munro added.

Scottish Greens said the saga showed more should be done to recycle building materials rather than rely on quarrying.