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31 October 2003
Criticisms over quarrying around Thornborough henges

A TV archaeologist criticised a county council over the destruction of the landscape around one of Britainís top prehistoric sites. Thornborough Henges, near Ripon, has the greatest concentration of late Neolithic and early Bronze Age sites in the country. But it also represents the largest prehistoric quarrying operation in Britain and construction firm Tarmac has proposed extending its  activities in the area.
     Dr Mark Horton, a presenter on the BBCís Time Flyers programme, criticised North Yorkshire County Council over the destruction of the landscape around the site. Dr Horton, head of archaeology at the University of Bristol, said: "Iíve been appalled by what Iíve seen at Thornborough. Archaeological sites like this should be protected and plans such as these shouldnít even be proposed. Yet at Thornborough, it is OK to seriously consider the total loss of a prehistoric landscape, arguably as important, for simple economic gain."
     North Yorkshire County Council permitted Tarmac to quarry in the area in 1994 with 'only a very limited archaeological survey', Dr Horton said, adding that plans for a 'massive expansion' of gravel quarrying would effectively isolate the village of Nosterfield and the henges.
     No formal planning application has been submitted to the council, but Tarmacís proposals have met fierce local opposition from residents, who have established the Friends of Thornborough campaign group. Group spokesman Mike Sanders said the aim was to save the henges and the ancient burial sites that may lie beneath from destruction. "North Yorkshire County Council has repeatedly demonstrated that the uniqueness and outstanding heritage value of the landscape around scheduled monuments is of little value compared with income-generating mining," Mr Sanders said.
     But county council archaeologist Neil Campling defended the previous studies that had been carried out and said all the finds had been recorded properly. He added that the campaign group was exaggerating its case. "As to the archaeological issues, they are overstating their case. Various features, such as solution holes where the gravel falls down, give the impression of more destruction than there actually is." He said in the event of an official planning application being submitted, a review of the environmental impact of the plans would be carried out. But Tarmac spokeswoman Vicky Fletcher denied the site was under threat. "There are no plans to dig up or destroy the henges and we would restore the site in consultation with archaeological experts and provide a visitor centre." she said.
     The BBCís Time Flyers episode, which will look at the archaeological aspects of the henges, is to be screened on BBC Two on Tuesday November 4 at 7.30pm.

Source: scotsman.com (27 October 2003)

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