THE FRIENDS OF THORNBOROUGH HENGES
Protecting, Preserving and Enhancing Our Cultural Landscape
PLANNING & REGULATORY FUNCTIONS COMMITTEE 21.2.06
TARMAC’S APPLICATION TO QUARRY LADYBRIDGE FARM
Notes by M Sanders
ALWYN SHAW, MINERALS PLANNING OFFICER
Outlined the application, which includes request for an extension of time on the life of the existing processing plant at Nosterfield Quarry. Referred to the off-site mitigation areas totally 60 acres that Tarmac proposes to hand over to trustees in perpetuity. Reminded councillors of their site visit last summer with a selection of slides.
30 MINS PRESENTATION BY OBJECTORS
Introduced by Dr Heyworth, Director of the Council for British Archaeology;
5 mins by George Chapman covering the non-archaeological objections;
20 mins by Dr Jan Harding explaining importance of the archaeology;
Concluding summary by Dr Heyworth, ending by quoting yesterday’s leader in “The Guardian”
- Blackburn: what is evidence left by these occupation pits? Wren commented that experts are often later proved wrong.
- Tindall: How deep are these pits? A: 15 – 45 cms.
- Garnett: why do you describe this as a sacred landscape?
- Lightfoot: what is accurate distance between the henges and the occupation pits? A: A short walk.
- Trotter: worried about an influx of druidic worshippers like at Stonehenge;
- Snowball: why have occupation pits been identified only on land that Tarmac wants to quarry?
Detailed answers given by Dr Harding.
30 MINS PRESENTATION BY BOB NICHOLSON OF TARMAC AND HIS ARCHAEOLOGIST MIKE GRIFFITHS
Outlined benefits of Nosterfield Quarry and emphasised that it is a well-managed operation that has experienced no complaints from the local community. LB Farm is not within the setting of the henges. There are no more available Preferred Areas in the current MLP, so cannot readily locate, as some suggest. Quoted as a precedent Littlethorpe Quarry, which was approved as an exception, despite not being a Preferred Area. Indicated economic and social impacts that would stem from closure of Nosterfield Quarry if this extension is not granted. Can’t understand English Heritage’s decision to object. Campling has judged the sample remains at LB Farm to be of no importance, and criticised NYCC’s new Heritage Manager for agreeing with EH. Anyway, the buried archaeology on this site has already been damaged by farming.
- Snowball: Has Tarmac asked for Ladybridge Farm to be included in the revised Minerals Local Plan, and will there be redundancies at Nosterfield Quarry if this application is refused?
A: Tarmac has included LB Farm in its submission, together with an area north of Nosterfield Quarry, and some workers will be made redundant if this application is refused.
- Lightfoot: What is the distance from the occupation pits to the henges? A: About 700m.
- Mrs de Courcy-Bailey: Was there any buried archaeology at Littlethorpe? A: No.
Interjection by Mr Shaw: There was no objection from the County Archaeologist at Littlethorpe, and officers consider each case on its individual merits.
Griffiths: (introduced himself as the “Pol Pot” of modern archaeology)
There is significant archaeology on LB Farm but, according to an un-named EH source, because TB Henges are not a contender for World Heritage status, they cannot be of international importance. Nor can they be of national significance since EH and NYCC failed to complete the recent evaluation. Repeated that Campling had earlier judged the archaeology of the area not to be of international importance. Indeed, Campling had expressed the view that NYCC would be hard-pressed to warrant rejection.
Contrary to what Harding has told you, the sample of 6 pits found over an area of 6 football pitches would produce a maximum of 50 pits, not 200. These pits have been badly degraded by farming over the past 2,000 years. Their contents were examined by independent experts who classed the remains as low-value. Do not, for one moment, believe that, by refusing this application you will ensure preservation of the buried archaeology in situ. I checked with the farmer only this morning and he has received no approach from EH with any proposal to protect the archaeology. There is only one way in which NYCC can ensure preservation of the buried archaeology ~ and that is by granting this application subject to a S106 Agreement. Concluded by quoting Prof. Bradley’s scathing opinion of academic archaeologists.
- Tindall: has ploughing exposed most of the buried archaeology? A: enough to damage the pits.
- Garnett: has NYCC given its reason for not accepting your offer of a S106 Agreement? A: No.
BOB SYDES, NYCC HERITAGE MANAGER
1. Explained the latest evaluation process. The Method Statement agreed the physical scope, which was easy enough, and the method for assessing the “significance” of any findings. All parties agreed on the excellence of the “characterisation” undertaken, but assessing significance proved much more difficult. It was finally agreed by EH and NYCC that the mechanistic methodology would act as “a guide to professional judgment”. This resulted in them taking a different view to Mike Griffiths because, in their judgment, the remains found in the SW part of the site do represent a significant prehistoric landscape.
2. Discussed the effects of ploughing versus preservation in situ. There is no doubt that the finds are not in a great state of preservation, having suffered much damage. The future fate of the remains is not “a material consideration” because quarrying would certainly destroy the buried remains, while the impact of future farming is more questionable. The latter is a national, not just a local problem, and is being tackled as such.
3. The principle of entering into a legal agreement is not workable in the context of this particular application. He appeared to suggest that a new application that excludes the SW part would be more favourably received. The comments Griffiths attributed to Campling were taken out of context because they were made before the final results were known.
- Tindall: Are you suggesting that Tarmac should submit another application to exclude the SW corner?
A: reiterated previous (to me, ambiguous) statement, which was supported by Neil Redfern of EH.
- Blackburn: Does this corner constitute 25% of the entire site? A from Griffiths: Yes, but it contains the larger proportion of available minerals.
- Garnett: We need help to understand the scoring system. A from Sydes: The whole report has informed NYCC’s decision-making process. Redfern: EH’s conclusions are the result of careful evaluation by in-house experts and have been confirmed by our National Advisory Board of external experts.
- What is the total tonnage of extractable minerals in that SW corner? A from Nicholson: We estimate it at 40% of the total across the site because the deposits there are deeper.
ALWYN SHAW read through the main points of the printed officers’ report and recommended refusal of the application.
COMMENTS BY COUNCILLORS:
Garnett (Con) proposed accepting the recommendation.
Snowball (Lab) seconded motion because he is sceptical of the loss of jobs argument and knows there is no shortage of sand and gravel in the county.
Heseltine (Con): Confirmed healthy reserves of minerals. Prepared to accept EH’s contention that the landscape around the henges should be sacrosanct. We are only on the threshold of understanding the importance of this area. Although has previously been the casting vote in favour of accepting a quarrying application, on this occasion will vote for refusal. We should recommend that national attention should be directed at the continuing problem of plough damage to buried archaeology.
Tindall (Con): The damage has already been done and this site is less important than the jobs, so will vote against refusal.
Wren (Lib): Supports Tindall, having discussed it with him over many months. The experts cancelled each other out.
Blackburn (Con): No danger to henges. Concerned at potential loss of jobs. Tarmac is excellent site manager. Will vote against refusal.
Lightfoot (Lib): Would support a new application to exclude SW corner, but can’t refuse this recommendation.
VOTE: 6 FOR, 3 AGAINST, SO APPLICATION REFUSED.