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11 June 2004
Ancient henges fight goes nationwide

Campaigners working to protect the surroundings of scheduled ancient monuments from further quarrying near Bedale (Yorkshire, England) hope to spread their influence across the country. Local group the Friends of Thornborough is already opposing plans by Tarmac Northern, which wants to secure the future of Nosterfield quarry, to extend sand and gravel extraction in an area around the unique triple henge complex, believed to represent the largest Neolithic ritual site in Britain. Now a national organisation, Heritage Action, is urging people to support the Friends by protesting not only to North Yorkshire County Council but to Prime Minister Tony Blair, his deputy John Prescott and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.
     Tarmac has confirmed that it will defer any decision on a planning application to extend operations to Thornborough Moor, which contains the henges, until the results of a conservation plan commissioned by English Heritage are known. The company has, however, submitted an application for quarrying at nearby Ladybridge Farm which, campaigners say, is believed to contain archaeological remains of a prehistoric settlement used by people who visited the henges.
     George Chaplin, a local spokesman for Heritage Action, claimed most of the archaeology of the settlements in the Thornborough area had been destroyed by quarrying. He said it was vital that all remaining areas were left untouched so that they could be understood by future archaeologists. He added: ''They must not be destroyed in haste as part of a massive quarrying operation." He added: "We are going to make sure that the Thornborough issue reaches national headlines. It is important that the government is aware that this is a national issue."
     Tarmac Northern has tried to reassure local people that measures will be taken to ensure that the 111 acres Ladybridge Farm application will not impact on the archaeology of the area because it doesn't include the area of Thornborough Moor, which contains the 5,500 year old henges. The company says the expansion is necessary to provide much-needed sand and gravel supplies to North Yorkshire's construction industry. Bob Nicholson, Tarmac's estates manager, said that "Tarmac will not pursue any further proposals until the findings of the English Heritage sponsored Conservation Plan are known."
     For more information about Heritage Action's campaign see www.heritageaction.org. The Friends' website is at www.friendsofthornborough.org.

Sources: Nidderdale Today, This is Hawes, The Northern Echo, Darlington & Stockton Times (11 June 2004)

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