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11 June 2006
New battle looming over the Thornborough henges

Three months after quarry firm Tarmac was refused planning permission to expand its operations near Thornborough Henges, north of Ripon (North Yorkshire, England), the company has formally lodged an appeal against the decision. The move comes as no big surprise, as Tarmac had indicated it would appeal after its plans were thrown out in February by a North Yorkshire County Council planning committee. The matter could now end up being resolved at a public inquiry.
     Tarmac Northern employs 15 full-time workers at Nosterfield quarry; it sought planning consent to extract 2.2m tonnes over four years from 112 acres at nearby Ladybridge Farm, half a mile from the nearest of three Neolithic earthwork henges outside the village of Thornborough.
     The henges have been described as the Stonehenge of the North. The site represents a scheduled ancient monument with legal protection, but campaigners who bombarded North Yorkshire County Council with protests insisted that its immediate surroundings, including Ladybridge, must be saved from the effects of more quarrying. In February North Yorkshire's planning committee voted 6-3 to reject Tarmac's application after receiving over 1,000 letters of objection and a 9,680-signature petition from people anxious to defend the three henges dating from up to 4000 BCE.
     Tarmac said it will appeal and seek a public inquiry, but a spokesman indicated that this was still not the end of the story. Bob Nicholson, Tarmac estates manager for the area, said: "We are anxious to safeguard employment and maintain supply from the quarry to the construction industry. We are also discussing the possibility of a revised application for a smaller extraction area at Ladybridge, avoiding areas which were the subject of archaeological concern."
     Friends of Thornborough Henges spokesman Dick Lonsdale remained sceptical. He said: "If the revised application is for the area which does not contain nationally important archaeology then the land taken for the amount of sand and gravel to be won would be unacceptable. This is the best and most versatile agricultural land and the area of proposed extraction is within the setting and the main prehistoric ritual landscape of the Thornborough Henges."
     The campaign group, TimeWatch, which mounted strong opposition to Tarmac's original application, has also condemned the firm's latest move. "The planning rules say nationally important archaeology must be protected, so Tarmac are determined to prove the archaeologists are wrong - they are appealing against a decision that was backed by English Heritage," said George Chaplin, chairman of TimeWatch. "The English Heritage defence of Thornborough has been backed to a very high level - the English Heritage executive said in March that Thornborough is a world class heritage site".

Source: The Northern Echo, Yorkshire Post Today (6 June 2006), Knaresborough Today (9 June 2006)

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