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7 August 2004
Objections to quarrying at Thornborough henge complex

Heritage campaigners fighting to stop the destruction of the massive Thornborough henge complex this week delivered more than 600 written objections to the planning department of North Yorkshire County Council in Northallerton, northern England.
     The letters - which were delivered in a wheelbarrow - are as a result of a local, national and international campaign being co-ordinated by George Chaplin, the Thornborough Campaign co-ordinator for Heritage Action.
     "We have really upped the ante. We wanted to make a splash and show the 'powers that be' a strong sign of support for our campaign. We feel that by presenting the council with more objections than it has ever received for any application, we can send a clear message about the strength of public concern," Mr Chaplin said. Around 10 per cent of the letters of objection came from abroad, and an online petition has so far received over 3000 names.
     Despite it's obvious importance, the site has never been fully investigated. The three huge arranged in a line across Thornborough Moor have been confirmed by English Heritage as the most important ancient site between Orkney and Stonehenge. Exploratory digs have uncovered burials, tools and domestic items, but no large-scale excavation has taken place.
     "This was engineering on a scale which would have stupefied people at the time," said Mr Chaplin of Heritage Action. "Archaeologists have described it as the biggest earth-moving exercise to take place during prehistoric times. Thornborough is the central part of an even wider complex of henges and causeways that extend for over 40 miles. It is vital that all remaining areas are left untouched so that these can be understood by future archaeologists. They must not be destroyed in haste as part of a massive quarrying operation."
     Mike Griffiths, a former county archaeologist for North Yorkshire now working as a consultant for Tarmac, claimed recently "More had been learned as a direct result of quarrying than from any other source, with quarry firms required to undertake preliminary surveys, unlike farmers. It was ploughing that destroyed archaeology without record, while quarrying revealed records and saves finds," adding that "continued deep ploughing will ruin most remaining archaeology within 20 years."
     However, George Chaplin hit back "Tarmac own Thornborough Moor and they should therefore have it in their power to change the ploughing regime - there are no signs of this happening. There is no evidence that deep ploughing has ever been done at Ladybridge and furthermore, since the topsoil is directly on top of a stone field (consisting of 15-35cm diameter stones) deep ploughing is highly unlikely to be practiced by any sane farmer."
     Following Mike Griffiths' claims about ploughing, Mr Chaplin was contacted by a number of concerned individuals who believed that Thornborough was now under imminent threat from the plough, prompting Mr Chaplin to say "let's not allow Tarmac to overplay this ploughing card, it is pure speculation to say so much archaeology will be destroyed in such a short time, we are talking about a specific site here, not a bunch of statistics."
    "People are becoming concerned that all the archaeology will be lost before archaeologists can get to the site, even at locations not under immediate threat from quarrying. Ladybridge contains archaeology of national importance. The long term implications of Tarmac winning such a high profile application under such circumstances are very wide ranging. Imagine all the other heritage sites that this argument could be applied to, to justify the total transformation of a heritage landscape through development. Thornborough is one of the most important ritual sites in Britain - if Tarmac's application succeeds here, then nowhere would be safe from the developers."
     The statutory period for consultation ended at the beginning of August, but people can still object until 30 September. For futher details, please visit Heritage Action

Source: The Guardian, Northallerton Today, Heritage Action (5 August 2004)

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