Minerals firm accused by campaign group
by staff of The Darlington & Stockton Times
A LEADING minerals company is prepared to sacrifice archaeological heritage near Bedale for profits, it was claimed this week.
A local campaign group has reacted angrily to the announcement that, as expected, Tarmac Northern has applied for planning permission to extract sand and gravel from an area next to Nosterfield quarry in a bid to secure the future of the operation.
The 111-acre site east of the quarry at Ladybridge Farm does not include the area of Thornborough Moor, which contains three earthwork henges classified as scheduled ancient monuments, but the campaign group warned that it would vigorously resist the application.
Tarmac Northern estates manager Bob Nicholson said Nosterfield quarry would close in three years' time unless the company was able to extend the extraction area. This would have a knock-on effect on local jobs and building projects.
Tarmac Northern has already said that it will defer any decision on whether to try to extend excavations on to Thornborough Moor until the results of a conservation plan commissioned by English Heritage are known.
The Friends of Thornborough, a voluntary group dedicated to protecting the surviving setting of the henges, is concerned about the potential effects of quarrying in that area but is also worried that excavations at Ladybridge Farm will destroy more archaeological evidence.
Tarmac Northern said, however, that it was seeking to reassure local stakeholders and interest groups that the Ladybridge Farm application would not have an impact on the archaeology of the site.
It added that any future plans for Thornborough Moor would take full account of the archaeological and environmental value of the site and would not affect the henges.
Mr Nicholson said: "The application to extend the area of excavation to Ladybridge Farm includes detailed plans for initial soil stripping works to be monitored by a professional archaeologist to ensure any artefacts which may be discovered are investigated and recorded.
"There are also plans to restore the site fully to enhance biodiversity and nature conservation. As responsible quarry operators, this care and respect for the environment and its archaeological heritage is standard practice for Tarmac Northern.''
He said Tarmac was doing important work in identifying and extracting new sand and gravel sources to meet the needs of local construction industry in accordance with the Government's supply guidelines.
If Nosterfield quarry were to close, North Yorkshire would face a supply shortfall of 500,000 tonnes a year.
Tarmac began consulting the local community and statutory authorities in November 2002.
Submission of the Ladybridge Farm application clashes with the stance taken by English Heritage, which said in April that it was opposed to any further extraction in that area until the archaeological value of the landscape surrounding the henges was better understood.
English Heritage is funding Dr Jan Harding, of Newcastle University, to conduct extensive fieldwork on the Thornborough landscape. It was Dr Harding who first highlighted the historic importance of the henges.
A spokesman for the Friends of Thornborough said the Ladybridge Farm application was a sad day for the henges complex, described by English Heritage as the most important prehistoric site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys.
Friends' chairman Jon Lowry said: "It is appalling that a company which attempts to project itself as a supporter of archaeology is prepared to sacrifice yet more of this national treasure for the sake of its own profits.
"I can assure Tarmac it is in for a long fight and call upon all citizens to join our demand by writing to their MPs that the Government takes immediate action to protect this outstanding example of our national heritage by declaring it an area of archaeological importance.''
Posted by BrigantesNation
12th June 2004ce