|30 July 2005
Tarmac offers land next to henges gift
Quarry firm Tarmac is offering to give 60 acres of land adjacent the ancient Thornborough Henges (North Yorkshire, England) to the nation. The company, currently in dispute with conservationists over its plans to extend quarrying operations near the 5,000 year old site, says its 'significant donation' will help ensure the preservation of the henges. The donation would include Tarmac making available its visitor centre and car park at the entrance to Nosterfield quarry, about half a mile from the monument, for the use of sightseers. There would also be a footpath for visitors to get to the reserve. But the offer by Tarmac has been given a cautious welcome by campaigners, amid accusations the gesture was both 'a public relations exercise'.
Tarmac has previously discussed the long term management of the henges with English Heritage, but in the past they have declined the opportunity to take over direct responsibility. "We hope they will consider this new proposal and agree to the significant donation we have offered," said Mr Phillips. "The preservation of the henges is vitally important to us all, and we look forward to working with English Heritage and North Yorkshire County Council to develop this charitable trust," he added.
In response, chairman of the Friends of Thornborough, Jon Lowery said: "My initial reaction is we have got to welcome any such move but the devil is in the detail – to whom will it be given? Of course, we have to realise all this talk about preserving the heritage is all a fob. The whole thing is a public relations exercise – they are not there as a benevolent organisation, they are there as a mining company."
Chairman of campaign group TimeWatch, George Chaplin, also urged caution. "The fact is, the ritual landscape of the Thornborough Henges covers a great deal more than 60 acres and whilst we welcome this offer, we think that this may be a case of Tarmac attempting to buy off the protestors without taking into account the true extent of the archaeology," he said. "However, this does mean that Tarmac are now willing to accept that preserving the archaeology of the Thornborough Henges is important."
North Yorkshire County Council is expected to make a decision on Tarmac’s planning application for quarrying at Ladybridge Farm, half a mile from the henges, in September.
Sources: BBC News, Darlington & Stockton Times, Ripon Today (29 July 2005)
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