Concern Over More Quarrying Applications At Thornborough Henges

By Caroline Lewis | 11 October 2006
shows an aerial photograph of Thornborough Henges. It appears as a series of circular shaped mounds linked by earthen roadways and surrounded by fields.

Thornborough Henges is a series of Neolithic earthworks which once formed part of a ritual landscape. © English Heritage

Campaigners who helped stop quarrying company Tarmac from digging around the neolithic Thornborough Henges complex in North Yorkshire are now worried that the council is inviting more applications for mineral extraction in the vicinity.

Tarmac’s proposal to extract gravel from the Ladybridge Farm site close to the henges was turned down after groups including Heritage Action put their case to North Yorkshire County Council. They argued that sensitive archaeology in the ritual landscape around the ringed earthwork monuments would be destroyed if the application was successful.

Now members of Heritage Action are up in arms over the council’s new round of consultations on potential sites for extraction. The consultation process, during which submissions are accepted from industry, landowners and other interested parties, does not rule out quarrying around Thornborough.

Shows an aerial photograph of the central henge at Thornborough. It is a grassed over circle with a clear raised outline on which there a trees dotted around.

A proposal to quarry for gravel near the scheduled monument was refused by the county council. © English Heritage

“It is quite incredible what is going on,” said Stephen Cornwell, spokesman for Heritage Action. “Tarmac Northern is appealing against a refusal to extend their existing quarry, yet at the same time North Yorkshire County Council has invited suggestions for further quarrying! It is as if they actively want the archaeology destroyed.”

Both Tarmac and another quarrying company, Hanson, have submitted new proposals for quarrying which fall within the region of Thornborough. The henges themselves are a scheduled ancient monument and are protected by law, but the surrounding landscape, which archaeologists argue is equally important, is not.

English Heritage, which looks after scheduled monuments, has said it is “extremely concerned about the piecemeal approach” to protecting the landscape.

A council statement points out that it is a legal requirement for all submissions to be considered.

Shows a black and white aerial photograph of the area of Thornborough Henges - the three circular monuments run diagonally from top left to bottom right.

The complex is known as the Stonehenge of the North. Courtesy The Friends of Thornborough Henges

“By carrying out early consultation on sites,” says the statement, “the Council is not prejudging the outcome of the exercise and it may be that some, or all of the sites submitted so far may not be suitable.”

“The Council is aware of concerns about the future quarrying in the vicinity of Thornborough Henges,” it continues, “and these concerns will be taken into account before any decisions are made.”

Mr Cornwell would like an end to quarrying applications in North Yorkshire. “North Yorkshire is set to become a net exporter of gravel, so there is no need for further expansion, particularly in an area of such importance.”

The Council is inviting comments on the issue until November 11 2006. Responses should be sent to the Senior Minerals and Waste Policy Officer, North Yorkshire County Council, County Hall, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, DL7 8AH. Email mwdf@northyorks.gov.uk.

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