ENGLISH HERITAGE’S INITIAL RESPONSE

1.0 Summary.

1.1 The application site (Ladybridge Farm, Moor Lane) lies within the Swale/Ure catchment. This larger area contains the most significant concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments and related archaeological deposits between Wessex and Orkney. Within this larger area are seven henges, at least two curseses, several barrows and the Devil’s Arrows standing stones at Boroughbridge. Many of the features within this landscape are scheduled as nationally important, whilst the application site is itself immediately adjacent to three of the scheduled henges.

1.2 The application does not appear to meet any of the criteria identified in the Minerals Local Plan (adopted 1977) for the assessment of “small-scale extensions”.

1.3 Archaeological excavation and evaluations have been conducted in the vicinity of the application area for the past decade, but the vast majority of the data from these works has yet to be edited, published, or made subject to peer review, and is therefore currently unavailable for consideration by the relevant archaeological curators in order to gauge the impact of the proposal. The work of Dr. Harding is due for publication in 2005, whilst that relating to the 1995 minerals planning permission is also timetabled for 2005. Both groups of data should provide the necessary baseline of information to enable management decisions to be made.

1.4 The proposals for after-use of the site do not provide for the setting of the archaeological landscape to be safeguarded.

1.5 It is the view of English Heritage that this application should not be determined.

2.0 Significance.

2.1 The application documentation makes reference to the fact that the application site lies within an ‘acknowledged area of national and international importance for archaeology’ ( Non-Technical Summary, page 22, final bullet point) but the application attempts to suggest that the specific application site (‘the detailed assessment area’) is of limited importance, landscape character or significance (Non Technical Summary paras 33 to 36, page 10) even though it is immediately adjacent to a group of three of the five internationally important scheduled henges referred to in the ‘landscape study area’ (Non Technical Summary, para 45, page 12) Furthermore this group of three henges on Thornborough Moor are unparalleled in their size, alignment and form (Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment, para 3.3.15, page 14). Comments in the Archaeological Desk- Based Assessment reinforce the view of the national importance of the wider landscape and the scheduled monuments but it is clear that until all the earlier and current excavations, evaluations and interventions meet their previously agreed publication deadlines (both those undertaken on behalf of Tarmac Northern since the granting of planning permission for aggregates extraction at Nosterfield Quarry in 1995 and those undertaken by Dr. Harding of Newcastle University) it is not possible to:

2.2 English Heritage (supported by the participants in the Thornborough Henges Communication and Working Group) has proposed that a Conservation Plan is developed for the henges and related landscape (due for completion in 2005). This plan will outline the many significances applied to the landscape and enable all stakeholders to balance suggested ‘uses’ against the ‘significance’ of the landscape.

3.0 Impact.

3.1 The impact of the proposal can only be understood if there is sufficient information characterising the significance of the archaeological deposits. This essential information is not contained with the application and therefore the impact of this proposal on the archaeological deposits of the application site and the context of those deposits with regard to the wider cultural landscape and the adjacent scheduled monuments cannot at present be determined.

3.2 The missing information is specifically requested under Regulation 19 of the EIA Regulations 1999 and in this instance is fundamentally necessary in order to determine the Minerals Planning application.

4.0 Policies.

4.1 A detailed response to the Minerals Local Plan criteria for assessment of “small-scale extension” is set out in the appendix to this letter. To summarize, we believe the application does not constitute a “small scale extension”.

4.2 The application does not include an archaeological field evaluation (a requirement under Policy 4/7 of the Minerals Local Plan).

4.3 It is the case that archaeological deposits excavated during the current phase of extraction (eg ‘pit alignment cutting the quarry ditch of a barrow’ Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment, para 3.3.31, page 16) are of national importance and schedulable character. Similar deposits are believed by the applicant to be present in the application area (para 3.3.31) and therefore the application is contrary to Policy 14/8 of the Minerals Local Plan and para 27 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 16 (DoE 1990) until demonstrated otherwise.

4.4 MPG 7 (para3) makes it clear that “where there is serious doubt whether satisfactory reclamation can be achieved at a particular site, then there must also be a doubt whether permission for mineral working should be given”. If the applicants cannot demonstrate a sustainable after-use strategy that will safeguard the setting of this historic landscape, then the application should not be granted.

5.0 Recommendation.

It is the view of English Heritage that this application:

5.1 does not meet any of the criteria for assessing “small-scale extension”,

5.2 does not allow a judgement to be made on determining the impact of the proposal on nationally important archaeological deposits.

5.3 does not demonstrate that the proposed afteruse of the site will safeguard the setting of the historic landscape.

and therefore this application should not be determined.

5.4 English Heritage considers that the agreed timetables for the publication of all previous and current archaeological work conducted on behalf of Tarmac Northern Ltd (relating to the granting of planning permission in 1995 for the extraction of aggregates at Nosterfield quarry) and by Dr. J. Harding, should be adhered to. The process of publication and scrutiny by peer review is essential before an evaluation strategy can be undertaken. This must include the dissemination of earlier evaluation work in order to determine the success or otherwise of such undertakings in correctly characterizing the archaeological deposits in advance of extraction.

5.5 Given the significance of the landscape and the potential impact of the application, English Heritage is keen to engage with the applicant to both provide information for which we have responsibility, and to assist the applicants with the provision of information in a form which will allow determination of this application.

Appendix One

The Minerals local plan policy background

The North Yorkshire Minerals local plan (Adopted 1977) provides a framework for mineral extraction in the County to 2006. The Strategy of the plan is to:-

"achieve a balance between satisfying the need for minerals and the need for minerals and the need to protect the environment, which maximises the sustainability of both"

In meeting the requirements for aggregate production, the plan uses a sequential approach starting with Preferred areas (where extraction is regarded as acceptable in principle – although the Plan accepts that even in these areas it should not be assumed that planning permission will automatically be granted), followed by Areas of Search (identified to meet any shortfalls in provision towards the end of the Plan period should the Preferred Areas not come forward).

The Plan states that:-

"it follows that new aggregate mineral workings outside these areas would be contrary to policy. Any planning permission for such development would need to be justified by other material considerations as required by Section 54A of the 1990 Act. Such considerations might include compelling unforeseen need for the mineral which cannot be met elsewhere; the creation of such environmental, economic or other benefit as to justify substituting an allocated site; or minor adjustments to boundaries causing no significant policy conflict. In practice the circumstances where a proposal outside a Preferred Area or Area of Search would be more acceptable than one within those areas is likely to be rare” [Paragraph 3.2.8]

However, Policy 3/4 of the Plan does allow for the “small-scale extension of existing mineral workings”. Small-scale is not defined in the Plan, but the supporting text of this Policy advises that such applications will be assessed against the following criteria:-

However, even where an application meets the requirements of this Policy, any application would still have to satisfy the other policies of the Plan – in the case of this proposal, policies 4/7 and 4/8 (which relate to archaeology) and Section 4.3 which relates to restoration and aftercare.

The present application

The applicants accept that this is not a “Preferred Area” within the Minerals Local Plan. They accept that there is sufficient provision for sand and gravel in that part of the plan area within which the application site is located, and are not claiming that this site lies within one of the “Areas of Search”.

Thus, in policy terms, the only basis for approving such an application is on the grounds that it is a small-scale extension to an existing quarry (and is, therefore permissible under Policy 3/4).

As stated above, there are a number of criteria which the local planning authority will take into account in determining whether or not an application falls within the provisions of Policy 3/4:-

Mineral quantity

For the purposes of calculating the amount of sand and gravel required, the Plan sub-divides the County into two parts based upon the market destination of the quarried material. Nosterfield Quarry, and this proposed extension, within what the Plan defines as the “Southern Area”.

The total requirement for sand and gravel within this Southern Area for the period 1994–2013 is 26 million tonnes. Taking from this the amount of land which already has planning permission, there is an overall requirement within the Plan to find land for a further 8.8 million tonnes. The Plan identified four Preferred Areas to meet this shortfall.

When compared to these figures, the current application cannot be regarded as a “small-scale extension”. The output from this extension (2.2 million tonnes) represents a quarter of the identified shortfall of sand and gravel in Southern Area in the 19-year period to 2013 and equates to almost 8.5% of the total requirements for sand and gravel provision for the southern area for that period.

Working life

This extension is proposed to have a working life of 4 years. From the information provided, it is not possible to compare how this relates to the working life of the existing quarry. However, permission for extraction from the Northern Extension commenced in 1995. The Supporting Statement (Paragraph IV.5) states that permitted reserves at the current site will last for 2.8 years. This would give a total lifespan of the existing quarry of 12 years. The working life of the application site, therefore, represents a third that of the existing workings. Again, this is not small-scale.

Annual production

The annual production from this extension is likely to be 550,000 tonnes per year. This is equal to the output of the current site.

The annual output of sand and gravel for the Southern Area over the period 1994–2013 is envisaged, within the plan, as being 1,368,421 tonnes (i.e. 26 million tonnes/19 years). The output from this extension, therefore, represents 36% of the total average annual output for sand and gravel over the plan period. This could hardly be classed as “small scale”.

Geographical extent and scale in relation to the existing quarry area

The extension extends to just under 46 hectares. Although no details on the extent of the existing quarry are provided with this application, from the OS Map, this extension appears to be roughly equal in size to the current workings on the Nosterfield Northern Extension site (to the west of the plant site). Once again, not something which could be classified as small scale in comparison

Conclusions

  1. Paragraph 3.2.9 of the adopted Minerals Local Plan specifies a number of criteria which the local planning authority will use to assess whether a proposed application could be classified as being a “small-scale extension to an existing quarry”. This application does not appear to meet any of those criteria. The approval of such a significant development, therefore, would be contrary to the provisions of the adopted Mineral Local plan
  2. The County Council has already commenced the review of the current Minerals Local Plan with a Project Brief for a Joint Minerals and Waste Plan published in October last year. The merits of this site should be considered against other alternatives as part of the local plan review.