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19 October 2008
Stanton Moor stone circle saved!

After nine long years the ambience and surroundings of the Stanton Moor stone circle (Derbyshire, England) are now safe. It is a victory that has very much been down to the astonishing persistence over the years of large numbers of protestors, working with very many local people and the National Parks Authority. They refused to budge from the site near the ancient Nine Ladies Stone Circle as they battled to prevent an area of the Peak District National Park being used for quarrying. It has been Britain's longest-running protest camp.
     Anyone who has visited the site in the past few years could not fail to have been struck by two things: first, the magical nature of the stone circle and its surroundings; and second the amazing living conditions of the protestors - precipitous tree houses at terrifying heights, a network of connecting rope walkways extending for two kilometres and a maze of tunnels and emergency bunkers. The protesters have lost three friends to this way of life one from falling into the quarry, a second who drowned trying to cross the river and a third who was burnt alive when her treehouse caught fire.
     Ben Hartley, 29, has lived in a tree house on the site 'on-and-off' for the past nine years. He says the plans to re-start quarrying at the site would have been devastating for those living in the nearby village. And he says he is delighted that by working together with the residents they have been successful in over-turning the plans. Nearby resident Geoffrey Henson, aged 69, and his wife Julie have been keen to support the protestors during their stay. Retired veterinary manager Geoffrey said: "It has worked very well. It's been about having respect for one another. They have respect for us as local residents and we have respect for them because they have come to protect the area and not to cause any trouble."
     The protest was sparked when quarry company Stancliffe Stone announced plans to reopen Endcliffe and Lees quarries, at Stanton Moor, near Matlock, Derbyshire, to extract high-quality sandstone. Ian Pearson, estates manager of Stancliffe Stone, recently said "We've been working closely with the national park authority, local community and other interested parties to reach an agreement... We would like to thank all of the stakeholders involved in finalising this agreement, which will help protect the Nine Ladies Stone Circle, wildlife and surrounding landscape. We would like to thank all of the stakeholders involved in finalising this agreement, which will help protect the Nine Ladies Stone Circle, wildlife and surrounding landscape."
     Last September Hazel Blears, the local government secretary, decided Stancliffe Stone's planning permission would be revoked in exchange for the right to quarry at Dale View, a quarry in an area which is less environmentally sensitive. But the remaining 20 protestors refused to pack up until they had it in writing that there would be no quarrying at the site. After lengthy negotiations the final legal documents have been completed and are expected to be rubber stamped before Christmas. It will bring to an end years of controversy, court cases and concern over risks to the bronze age remains such as the Nine Ladies Stone Circle.

Sources: Manchester Evening News (20 September 2008), The Independent (5 October 2008), Heritage Action News (13 October 2008)

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