The Friends of Thornborough Henges

Mr David Nelson,
North Yorkshire County Council,
Minerals & Waste Planning,
County Hall,
Northallerton, DL7 8AH

22 September, 2006

Dear Mr Nelson,

Objections to Tarmac Northern’s June 2006 Application
NY/2006/0264/FUL to Quarry at Ladybridge Farm, Nosterfield

This executive summary of the Friends’ objections should be read in conjunction with the enclosed attachment focusing on adverse cumulative effects and weaknesses in the mitigation strategy. A further response from our legal advisers will follow shortly.

The Friends of Thornborough Henges urge the Planning Authority to reject the revised application on the following grounds:

1. It is contrary to local policies. The Planning Authority's reasons for rejecting the original application covered all of the Ladybridge site. What applies to the whole, must apply to the part. These same reasons must also logically apply to two thirds of Ladybridge - so the revised application is contrary to:

2. It ignores NYCC's policies on the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land as applied to quarrying ~ and is therefore contrary to Government policy expressed in MPG 7. In these troubled times, those responsible for national security should do all they can to minimise this country’s dependence upon imported foodstuffs. Development of this BMV agricultural land would also be contrary to Hambleton’s Policy EM 14 because there are suitable alternatives for the proposal on moderate or poorer quality land. Defra’s response to this application is based solely upon PPS 7, which relates to general development in rural areas. But, with this minerals application, MPG 7, which advises against the cumulative loss of BMV land, should take priority.

3. It degrades the importance of archaeological setting, as set out in PPG16, and is based upon a statistically invalid assumption that there is no buried archaeology of consequence in the northern two thirds of Ladybridge when the minimal 2% evaluation sampling left most of the site unexplored. The same banal assumption was made in support of the application for the present quarry, yet more than 200 ancient buried features were found after consent had been granted. The application site falls within the non-visual setting of archaeological remains of national importance and on this basis attracts the presumption in favour of preservation in situ found in PPG16 (paragraph 8), MLP policy 4/8 and Hambleton Local Plan HH19.

4. It fails the test of sustainability because it cannot meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This application erroneously claims that the application site “would have been unsuitable for occupation, settlement or burial during prehistory”. In his personal response, the acknowledged expert on henges, Dr J.Harding, effectively proves that the site is, in fact, an ideal environment for all three. Moreover, he emphasises that this is the only surviving section of wetland adjacent to a prehistoric settlement and that it thus deserves preservation in situ as a potentially invaluable resource for future study. Policy HH19 of the Hambleton Local Plan requires special regard to be paid to the preservation of archaeological sites of less than national importance, while Policy MPS 2 requires the Planning Authority to protect areas of archaeological value/cultural heritage from mineral development.

5. It demands that a planning judgment be made non-holistically [a] as though the northern two-thirds of the Ladybridge site were an isolated area, when it is in fact acknowledged as an integral component of the most important prehistoric landscape between Stonehenge and the Orkneys; and [b] by relying solely upon the discipline of archaeology, thereby ignoring the possibility that landscape historians could prove the application site had significance at other times in history. The Planning Authority is attempting to take a holistic approach to protecting the setting of the Thornborough Henges through the Conservation Plan, so it would be contrary and unsound to allow further piecemeal destruction of the county’s greatest heritage asset for short-term economic gain.

6. It demands that cumulative impact be ignored. By focusing its attention upon the development of a highly questionable after-use policy, the Planning Authority can already be accused of failing in its duty to properly consider the cumulative effects of fifty years of concentrated open-cast quarrying on such a fragile rural landscape and social infrastructure, as advised by RPG 12. Cumulative impact is recognised by Central Government in Policy MPS 2 as a material consideration, so it cannot be ignored. Appx B1 requires that mining mitigation “should never become an audit-driven paper chase not related to real world impacts”, yet the local authorities have been content to accept Tarmac’s assurances on mitigation implementation at Nosterfield without properly monitoring local opinion. Now that it is apparent that the applicant plans to create a mega quarry based upon the Nosterfield processing plant, the Planning Authority should defer deciding on any new mining application pending the completion of a strategic assessment of the cumulative impacts of past and projected quarrying in this area. How else can a sensible judgment be made on whether the locale can reasonably be expected to tolerate more mineral working?

7. It insists that building materials for West Yorkshire are more important than the loss to agriculture and heritage in North Yorkshire. The aggregate minerals reserves beneath Ladybridge Farm become progressively poorer in both quantity and quality toward the north. The deposits become thinner and increasingly more contaminated with silt, which makes them less economic as more treatment is necessary to extract the resource and upgrade it. The applicant's published information indicates Ladybridge Farm area is sub-economic, with at least 45% of reserves lying beneath the southern third of the area, which is excluded from this application. Before making a decision, the Authority should seek an informed, independent judgment on the value of the recoverable aggregates to the regional economy, compared with the loss to the nation of both a large area of best and most versatile agricultural land and another part of the setting of a nationally important Scheduled Ancient Monument.

8. It fails to consider alternative less sensitive sites. Despite having quietly added Killerby Hall to its landbank, the applicant continues to insist that there are no alternative, less-sensitive sites to Ladybridge Farm, thereby putting unfair pressure on the Planning Authority, which is obliged to fulfil its minerals quota. This application should, therefore, be rejected as it is the applicant’s duty to be frank and to demonstrate that all possible alternatives have been properly investigated.

9. It attempts to mislead consultees and the MPA regarding wildlife. If the Authority consults a genuine ecologist, it will find that thousands of birds are recorded on Ladybridge Farm by Harrogate & District Naturalist Society which, according to Simon Warwick, NYCC’s biodiversity adviser, also describes this site as having “long been recognised as important for both breeding and wintering (flocks of up to 100) corn buntings”. The loss of these fields would also adversely affect the winter-feeding prospects of golden plovers, lapwings, curlews, greylag and Canada geese.

10. It incorrectly claims that there will be no adverse hydrological effects. The RSPB Habitat Creation Handbook shows that water deeper than 1.5 metres has a detrimental effect on conservation value, yet Tarmac proposes to leave 40% deeper than 2 metres ~ so how much more of the lake area will be deeper than 1.5m? Nonetheless, it is clear from observation of exposed water levels that, as warned in the RSPB Handbook, excavations in the working quarry are directly affecting adjacent water bodies in the parish. The reduction of the water table consequent upon quarrying will undoubtedly cause desiccation of buried archaeology, thereby removing an important resource from future study. Tarmac’s proposal to flush water through the underlying soluble gypsum may damage the stability of the Scheduled Ancient Monuments in the vicinity.

11. It reflects undue pressure by the applicant to remove material considerations. It is commonly believed that the applicant has unduly influenced the major landowners, who would benefit from mining on their land, both to mislead property owners as to the implications of the Conservation Plan and to filibuster and manipulate the Conservation Plan itself ~ which is a material consideration in this matter. As a result, considerations of archaeological setting ~ fundamental to this application ~ have been removed from the Conservation Plan on their insistence.

12. It overplays the potential loss of employment if the application fails. Jobs in quarrying are, by the nature of the industry, short-term and transferable and, such is the continued demand for aggregates, when one quarry closes, another one opens. At the NYCC PRF meeting in February 2006, the Tarmac representative admitted under questioning that only two jobs will be lost when Nosterfield Quarry is exhausted. Heritage tourism, if properly encouraged, can provide a greater number of sustainable, locally sourced jobs. By contrast, if this application is approved, one hectare of archaeology-rich farmland will be devoured per annum for each job maintained.

13. It attempts to unfairly manipulate the planning system. The threat of an appeal if the revised application is not accepted puts undue pressure on NYCC and current objectors, all of whom have financial constraints. Such pressure by a wealthy multinational corporation is tantamount to manipulating the system. If NYCC, knowing that Tarmac will withdraw its appeal if consent is granted, approves this revised application before the related (and expensive) public inquiry gets underway, then the authority will be vulnerable to the accusation that it was motivated more by financial than by genuine planning considerations.

14. It is contrary to local opinion. As confirmed by the still valid petitions submitted to NYCC on 16th June 2005, the general public opinion is strongly in favour of preserving this archaeologically rich landscape for posterity rather than allowing further quarrying. Over 90% of the local community, which feels it has been victimised and disenfranchised for fifty years, is opposed to the current mitigation strategy and to any more quarrying in the vicinity. Should NYCC approve this weak revised application, it will face international condemnation.

15. Its after-use proposals would irrevocably damage a landscape that the Hambleton District-Wide Local Plan (HDWLP) designates as a “landscape enhancement area”. This means steadily re-introducing a bocage landscape of well-stocked hedgerows containing specimen trees ~ it does not mean eliminating traditional views (CD of lost views available) by introducing unnatural solid phalanxes of trees to screen quarries. Whilst encouraging woodland planting, S3.51 of the HDWLP states that “they should not coalesce into a continuous screen, blocking views through the landscape”. How, then, can the creation of more water-filled pools from which the public are excluded and which are totally screened by linear plantations of trees possibly be construed as landscape enhancement? The so-called “landscape enhancement” after-use policy being pursued at Nosterfield is in fact creating a no-go zone that will become frozen in time, completely contrary to the sustainable future described in the Government’s “A Better Quality of Life”, which expresses the UK’s response to Agenda 21 of the 1992 Earth Summit.

16. It requires the Planning Authority to subsequently approve the construction of sheds to accommodate 187 cattle in order to enable the remnant of Ladybridge Farm to survive as an economically viable unit. This is contrary to Structure Plan Policy A2 (ii) and the Hambleton Biodiversity Action Plan because intensification is known to devalue habitat. An Environment Agency survey has shown that “normal” seepage of agri-chemical pollutants and liquid manure has already severely damaged the aquatic environment at Nosterfield Nature Reserve. Tarmac is currently seeking to have the fields to the north-east and north-west designated as Preferred Areas; if developed, Ladybridge Farm will be reduced to an unsustainable 10% of its current area, so any residual viability will be short-lived, but at what expense to biodiversity?

If, despite all objections, such remains are to be permitted to be destroyed, national policy (PPG16, paragraph 25), policy HH20 of the Hambleton Local Plan, and policy 4/8 of the MLP provide that there should be provision secured for the excavation and recording of the remains before planning permission is granted; and that the archaeological work in question should be carried out before development commences (paragraph 4.2.12 of the MLP). This can be controlled by a Section 106 planning obligation, in accordance with local and national policy.

Yours sincerely,

John Lowry, Chairman,
The Friends of Thornborough Henges

Enclosed: Attachment focusing on cumulative effects and weaknesses in mitigation proposals



ATTACHMENT FOCUSING ON CUMULATIVE EFFECTS
AND WEAKNESSES IN MITIGATION PROPOSALS

Mineral Planning Statement No 2

Here we demonstrate that the County Council has not hitherto taken sufficient cognisance of the cumulative adverse effects of quarrying since World War II. The relevant legislation relating to these cumulative impacts is MPS2, issued 2005. It offers the following guidance on cumulative impacts and the determination of planning applications:

MPS2 advises that “Policies and proposals should take into account the level of existing activity and impacts, the duration and nature of proposals for new or further working, and the extent of impacts which a particular site, locality, community, environment or wider area of mineral working can reasonably be expected to tolerate over a particular or proposed period.”

Paragraph 2. “… Where adverse environmental effects cannot be adequately controlled or mitigated through the design of proposals or the attachment of conditions, planning permission should be refused.

Paragraph 4 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
“MPAs should incorporate the objectives of sustainable development in minerals planning. … (and) aim to (among others):

Paragraph 12. Policies and proposals should take into account the level of existing activity and impacts, the duration and nature of proposals for new or further working, and the extent of impacts which a particular site, locality, community, environment or wider area of mineral working can reasonably be expected to tolerate over a particular or proposed period. … MPAs should also have regard where relevant to cumulative impacts of simultaneous and/or successive working of a number of sites in a wider area of commercially-viable deposits. These may affect communities and localities over an extended period, depending on the nature, age and size of the site(s) (see paragraphs 24–29).’

MPS2, Paragraph 17. CONSIDERATION OF APPLICATIONS “Applications which are in accordance with the relevant development plan should be allowed unless material considerations indicate otherwise. MPAs should have regard to all material considerations including the policies outlined in PPGs and MPGs, and their successor PPSs and MPSs. … MPAs should take into account the full range of social, community, economic and environmental issues relevant to the planning decision.”

PLANNING GUIDANCE (Bibliography MPS2)
DOE, 1997. Planning Policy Guidance Note 1 General Policy and Principles
DETR, 1999. Planning Policy Guidance Note 12 Development Plans
DOE, 1990. Planning Policy Guidance Note 16 Archaeology and Planning
DOE, 1996. Minerals Planning Guidance Note 1 General Considerations and the Development Plan System
DETR, 1998. Minerals Planning Guidance Note 2 Applications, Permissions and Conditions
DETR, 1999. Minerals Planning Guidance Note 5 Stability in Surface Mineral Workings and Tips
DOE, 1996. Minerals Planning Guidance Note 7 The Reclamation of Mineral Workings
DOE, 1993. Minerals Planning Guidance Note 11. The Control of Noise at Surface Mineral Workings
ODPM, 2004. Planning Policy Statement 1. Creating Sustainable Communities (Consultation Paper)

Paragraph A3. ‘ Planning Authorities should consider the cumulative effect of previous minerals development and new proposals on the locality;’

Cumulative Impact on the Landscape and the Setting of the Henges

[A CD-Rom containing photographs of this landscape is appended]

Present and past quarrying has had the adverse cumulative effect of closing the visual aspect of the landscape ~ contrary to the guiding principles of the Hambleton District Wide Local Plan’s (HDWLP) section on landscape, and it is the whole plan that must be taken into account, not just a few chosen paragraphs. Paragraph (L2.1) states “Developments will be permitted where it does not have a significant impact on the open character and visual amenity of the countryside” and the HDWLP at paragraph advises 3.51 “Woodland planting can make a significant contribution to landscape enhancement. Woodlands will need to be in large blocks to make an impact but they should not coalesce into a continuous screen, blocking views through the landscape.

The HDWLP further advises that development acceptable in principle outside Development Limits under the terms of Policy L1 will be permitted where all of the following criteria are met:
1. It does not have a significant impact on the open character and visual amenity of the countryside and accords with Policies L5 and L8 to L12. Particular attention will be paid to the cumulative effect of sporadic Development’;
2. ‘It safeguards landscape features worthy of protection’;
4. ‘Where appropriate, it is accompanied by a landscape scheme which takes into account the immediate impact and distant views of the development’;

JUSTIFICATION
3.17 ‘Much of the District comprises attractive countryside, a quality which is related to the small amount of development and that it is relatively unspoiled by urban influences. Protection of the countryside is an important aim of the Plan and this is to be achieved by carefully controlling new development, permitting it only where needed and ensuring it is appropriate in design and siting’.

3.18 ‘This Policy is intended to ensure that any development permitted in the countryside, including agricultural development, is appropriate in siting and design to the character and quality of the surrounding landscape and sympathetic to the appearance and character of traditional buildings in the area’.

MPS2, Paragraph 11, advises: Development plan policies and proposals for minerals extraction and associated development should take into account the impacts of mineral working, such as visual intrusion, dewatering, water pollution …”

RPG 12:3.13 recommends: “protecting rural character, environmental assets, landscapes and ecology as well as making good past damage to them.”

Yet, in simple terms;

  1. Large parts of the reconstituted landscape are no longer open to long views;
  2. What parts can be seen are unsightly and contradict the aims of the HDWLP; and
  3. Parts of its character have been irreversibly and adversely altered.

Also of relevance to the Minerals Local Plan are impacts upon landscape, which are described as follows:
Landscape Impacts: “Changes in the fabric, character, and quality of the landscape as a result of a development; Direct impact upon specific landscape elements; Subtler effects upon the overall patterns of elements that give rise to landscape; character and regional and local distinctiveness; Impacts upon acknowledgement, special interests or values such as designated landscapes, conservation sites and cultural associations.”
Visual Impacts: “Relate solely to changes in available views of the landscape, and the effect of those changes on people; The direct impacts of the development upon views of the landscape through intrusion or obstruction.”

-------------------------------

The following demonstrates detrimental effects on the landscape’s prehistoric character, which is its primary significance:

The classification “Landscape Enhancement Area” in the current HDWLP fails to recognise the true significance of this landscape.

In 1952, the Yorkshire Archaeological Society declared in print “It cannot be stressed too strongly that any light thrown on this, (the Thornborough Henges complex) one of the most important monuments of its kind in Europe, will be of inestimable value to the study of prehistory in general and Yorkshire in particular.”

In 1994, Tarmac’s consultant stated in the Archaeological Assessment’s summary for the present quarry: ‘… it must be assumed that the area of the proposed extraction lies within, although probably at the extreme margins, of the main prehistoric ritual landscape.’ Since the HDWLP was adopted, English Heritage has stated that it is “the most important prehistoric landscape between Stonehenge and the Orkneys”, so its categorisation in the HDWLP as merely a Landscape Enhancement Area is outdated and incorrect.

An HDC press release of 12 September 2000, publicising the funding of research into the site, effectively acknowledged this by describing it as a “sacred landscape … unparalleled in Britain” ~ and the upcoming Local Development Framework can be expected to reflect this status.

Since February, 2004, NYCC has accepted its strategic responsibility to preserve the Thornborough landscape by co-ordinating a working group in which all stakeholders are devoted to developing a management plan.

The conventional practice of local government planners classifying environments using modern boundaries such as roads and hedgerows as boundaries is anachronistic and inappropriate when attempting to define an historic landscape and, according to Dr Harding who has studied it for 10 years, the application site is a vital component in that landscape.

Now that the public and the local authorities are fully cognisant of the national significance of this landscape, consent should not be given while the area to be preserved under the Conservation Plan is still under negotiation.

New bodies of water
Tarmac argues that there is no cumulative impact on the landscape because restorations have been a matter of public policy. It is stated at paragraph III, 11 ‘… Cumulative impact on the local area is acceptable. The western part of the existing Nosterfield complex is shortly to be restored, as working and restoration activity moves across the area eastwards. The area affected by working activity plus the area undergoing or yet to undergo restoration remains unchanged. The cumulative impact is thus neutral (i.e. the same as existing conditions) because the extra area taken into mineral production is balanced by areas restored to their intended afteruse.’ This is at odds with both common sense and the recent guidance within MPS2 and when the cumulative aftermath of 50 years of quarrying is considered.

Credence appears to be afforded to the attempt to justify the creation of large, deep water- bodies. Tarmac’s consultants in the May 2004 Environmental Statement, Appendix VII, state at paragraph 4.0.19 “It is possible that these lakes reflect more closely the Neolithic landscape, as Muir(1997, 30) suggests that many valley floors would have been “dappled by lakes and marshes”. If “true”, this cannot have been a situation that pertained for long since these wet features were soon colonised by reeds, according to Tarmac’s consultants. In the same document, at paragraph 4.0.18, they also state that, “The broad landscape has changed very little since prehistoric times as the archaeological and historical record suggests that this has been an area of small dispersed settlements set within agricultural land from the Roman period onwards”.

Screens of trees
Tarmac also argues that the landscape character has previously been enhanced and will be further enhanced by creating more large water-bodies because the rest of the quarried areas have been developed in a similar way ~ a patently ludicrous contention. They then propose hiding them by ‘discreet compartmentalisation’ and excluding the general public. If a landscape has really been enhanced, why is it necessary to hide it? That is a contradiction in terms. The visual aspect of landscape is about views in to and out of locations. Here, after fifty years of quarrying, the visual aspects of the landscape are, in fact, being systematically denied by arboreal linear plantations contrary to the Paragraph 3.51 of the HDWLP.

The concept of screening is well understood. It may be acceptable to screen a small development by surrounding it with trees, although it is far better that the development fits into the environment by good and pleasing design and is then perhaps softened by careful planting. The HDWLP demonstrates the point at paragraph 10.51: “Adequate landscaping, which reflects the character of the area, will also normally be required. Landscaping should not attempt to hide the building but rather to soften its outline and allow it to blend in with the surrounding landscape.”

Loss of views
The original landscape clearly enjoyed a most important character as advised by leading experts like landscape historian, Stephen Moorhouse, currently Chairman of the CBA Yorkshire Group. The henges are massive monuments set on a large, generally flat plateau. They were covered with gypsum – clearly having been designed to be seen from miles around. But now many views of these national treasures are obscured by tree-screened, compartmentalised, flat-bottomed depressions or large water-bodies, and the ugly hump that was the NYCC’s landfill site. The long views of the Conservation Area of Well have gone; views of the Moors are disappearing; and locals can no longer see the gently rising land to the north.
[A CD-ROM accompanying this attachment includes photographs of lost views]

Loss of Context and setting acknowledged by NYCC
This is a landscape of ancient character, but much has already been changed to its detriment; it is part and parcel of the setting of the internationally important Thornborough henges, and must be viewed in this context. How can the Planning Authority say that previous quarrying has not had a detrimental effect, as it did in the Officers Report to the Planning Committee last February, when the land previously destroyed was of similar or possibly more visually interesting character?

The County Council, when responding to the consultation on the Thornborough Henges Conservation Plan, wrote glowingly of the Plan Area’s landscape, both in visual and ecological terms: “The drawing of a tighter boundary around the henges to produce the revised Plan Area and the re-focusing of the Plan has perhaps contributed to the downplaying of the contribution of the landscape to the value and significance of the site complex. The text of the Plan reads as if the richness of the interplay of the archaeology and the landscape and sky, the rich subtleties of the landscape, and the interplay of the Area with its surroundings and setting have been air brushed out as a forbidden subject. …It is my view that the landscape is a significant component in terms of understanding, valuing and appreciating the Thornborough Henges site complex and also, therefore, in informing conservation and managing change decision-making. I believe it is worthy of inclusion. I recommend that landscape understanding, evaluation and contribution should be built in at various scales / levels of focus … I recommend that the issues of landscape context and setting should be covered in the report in a way that informs and contributes to understanding and appreciation of the Site Complex and not in a way that seeks or leads to a larger area of control.”

Detrimental landscape change acknowledged by Tarmac
There can be no clearer illustration of the ongoing cumulative and detrimental effect on this landscape than quoting directly from Tarmac’s planning applications. Appendix VII, 4.0.18 ( May 2004): “The broad landscape has changed very little since prehistoric times as the archaeological and historical record suggests that this has been an area of small dispersed settlements set within agricultural land from the Roman period onwards … the need for construction materials for development over the last hundred years has led to the exploitation of extensive quarries which have altered the landscape of the whole area. This is particularly true for the gravel terrace of the River Ure in the area of West Tanfield, Bell Flasks, Thornborough and Nosterfield, where quarries have previously cut away parts of the standing monuments and destroyed many others”.

Environmental Statement, May 2006:
4.1 “In the North Yorkshire Conservation Strategy, the context of the Ladybridge Farm
Extension (Revised) Hall Farm extension site lies within a landscape which was, at that time in the early 1990s, classified as having already suffered moderate landscape character loss through agricultural change and mineral extraction
.

4.3 “It is evident that the nature and the dynamic of those identified agents of change have continued to alter the character of the landscape around Nosterfield. It is also a local landscape, directly and indirectly, substantially and irreversibly, altered by the effects of historical and current sand and gravel extraction operations.”

“… it is anticipated that the landuse / landscape pattern to the local area north of Nosterfield could continue to be changed with the development of areas of water of various size as a result of further mineral extraction … To the south east of Nosterfield village, the pattern and appearance of the landscape is also anticipated to progressively change. It would alter from an open, agricultural land-use to a more compartmentalised landscape with the continuing establishment and growth of the extensive hedgerow planting and immature, linear woodland …”

III, 27 “… these elements of enclosure will all continue to develop into increasingly significant features in the landscape in future years, progressively changing the landscape pattern of the area and replacing the former pattern of hedge-lines and hedgerow trees, which were a feature of the 19th and early 20th century agricultural landscape around Nosterfield.”

LANDUSE CHANGE AND LANDSCAPE CONDITION
III.7 “Mineral extraction … has resulted in, and continues to result in, a
progressive, significant, direct and irreversible change to the landuse pattern of the
area, particularly around the village of Nosterfield.”

The dramatic landscape changes evidenced above are contrary to the current policies and guidance quoted earlier and resented by local people. Now that the national significance of this landscape’s prehistoric legacy is acknowledged, the Planning Authorities that have presided over its partial destruction must now protect what still survives.


Cumulative Impact on Best & Most Versatile Agricultural Land

RELEVANT POLICIES

MLP 4.2.2 “Government policy on agricultural land is set out in PPG 7. The best and most versatile agricultural land (grades 1, 2, & 3a in the MAFF Agricultural Land Classification System) is regarded as a national resource to be protected from irreversible loss. Where the working of some such land is unavoidable, it will only be permitted where provision is made for high standards of soil stripping , storage, management, restoration, drainage and aftercare to enable reinstatement to a condition suitable for high quality agriculture to be attained.”

MLP Policy 4/2, Best and Most Versatile Agricultural Land. “Mining operations on the Best and Most Versatile Agricultural Land will only be permitted where provision is made for a high standard of restoration, such that either an agricultural after-use can be achieved or the future potential for agricultural use is safeguarded.”

HDWLP Policy EM 14, Protection of Agricultural Land. “Development of the best and most versatile agricultural land (grades 1,2, and 3a) will only be permitted where:

  1. There is no suitable alternative for the proposal on land of moderate or poorer quality (grades 3b, 4 and 5); or
  2. It can be demonstrated that the development would allow the return of the land to agricultural use, without loss of quality.

MPS 2 paragraph 4. ‘SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
“MPAs should incorporate the objectives of sustainable development in minerals planning. … (and) aim to (among others):

MPS2, Paragraph 11, “Development plan policies and proposals for minerals extraction and associated development should take into account:
* the impacts on landscape, agricultural land, soil resources, ecology and wildlife, including severance of landscape and habitat loss, and impacts on sites of nature conservation, archaeological and cultural heritage value;

MPG7 Overview, “Mineral Planning Guidance Notes (MPGs) set out the Government's policy on minerals and planning issues and provide guidance to local authorities, the minerals industry and others on policies and the operation of the planning system with regard to minerals. Local planning authorities must take their contents into account in preparing their development plans and in decisions on individual planning applications.

MPG7 Paragraph 3, “The overall standards of reclamation have continued to improve over recent years, and with the development and implementation of appropriate reclamation techniques, there is potential for land to be restored to a high standard suitable for a variety of uses. Consistent and diligent application of the appropriate techniques will ensure that a wide range of sites are restored to appropriate standards. This may lead to the release of some areas of land which would not otherwise be made available for mineral working, for example, the best and most versatile agricultural land. Conversely, 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.

MPG7 Paragraph 13, “On many sites, the ability to achieve high standards of reclamation should enable mineral extraction to occur without the irreversible loss of land quality. Where minerals underlie the best and most versatile agricultural land it is particularly important that restoration and aftercare preserve the long-term potential of the land as a national, high quality, agricultural resource.”

MPG7 Paragraph 14, “Government policy seeks also to encourage the diversification of the rural economy where this will not result in the significant loss of high quality agricultural land. Therefore whilst agriculture remains the most appropriate after-use for many mineral sites, other uses such as forestry and some forms of amenity including nature conservation (e.g. heathland or unimproved grassland), should also be considered on land which was originally in agricultural use. Where these alternatives are proposed on the best and most versatile agricultural land, the methods used in restoration and aftercare should enable the land to retain its longer-term capability to be farmed to its land classification potential, thus remaining a high quality agricultural resource for the future.

Cumulative Impact on Agriculture of 50 years of Quarrying

The area of proposed extraction is of the best and most versatile and its yields are above average. The emphasis of the government’s guidance in MPS2, certainly for the period of extensive mineral extraction around Nosterfield, has been on the conservation of agricultural land. Up to the mid-1990’s, records indicate that the County Council fought hard for restoration to agriculture but, since then, with the adoption of the cheaper wet restoration strategy, it has not had due regard for the consequent detrimental effect upon BMV land.

Tarmac’s application to extend Nosterfield Quarry will clearly add to this adverse cumulative effect, as summed up in the statements in Appendix II:

Landscape and Visual Amenity Issues, paragraph 3.4. Land-use Change and Landscape Condition
‘Mineral extraction – historically on a relatively smaller scale above the water table, and typically to the south of the B6267 road, and, more recently, extensively below the water table to the north of that road - has resulted in, and continues to result in, a progressive, significant, direct and irreversible change to the landuse pattern of the area, particularly around the village of Nosterfield.’

VI.1. ‘… there is a direct and obvious relationship between the aim of restoring as much Best and Most Versatile land back to its original grade as possible on the one hand, and the operational restrictions of a lack of fill material and desire to maximise the biodiversity of restoration, on the other.’

VI.3. ‘In other respects, conflicts could not be accommodated and discriminatory decisions were needed. For example, in the case of the agriculture versus biodiversity conflict, it was not possible to restore all land to agriculture because of the lack of fill, and despite the importance given to this aspect of the environment in planning policy it had to take second place to biodiversity opportunities presented by the availability of water in the restoration.’

Defra has given the wrong advice
Defra has responded to this application with the comment, “The department does not wish to object to these proposals as the area of best and most versatile agricultural land is not regarded as significant in terms of the national agricultural interest.” It has confirmed in writing to the Friends that this comment is based on PPS 7, paragraphs 28 and 29, (Sustainable Development in Rural Areas) ~ but that is a policy statement relating to more general development in rural areas.

This is a minerals application and so decisions should be based on Minerals Policy Statements and Minerals Policy Guidance because these are specifically designed for considering plans relating to mineral extraction. MPS2 advises that the cumulative loss of BMV land should be avoided, MPG7, (Reclamation of mineral workings) offers similar unambiguous guidance. Defra’s response treats this application in isolation and fails to take cumulative loss into account so it has offered the wrong advice.

NYCC’s Minerals and Waste Development Framework Final Scoping Report, dated January 2005, appears to be working to the correct guidance as shown below:

Minerals Vision and most relevant plans
1.2.6 Vision: ‘To achieve a balance between maintaining an appropriate contribution from the minerals industry to a strong and diverse local economy with the need to conserve and enhance the environment and quality of life in North Yorkshire, in accordance with the principles of sustainable development’.
Key Documents:

The HDWLP states at paragraph 10.42 ‘Proposals should not …adversely affect areas of historic, ecological or archaeological interest. Proposals must also be in keeping with the character and quality of the surrounding landscape and not result in the loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land’.

Cumulative loss of BMV land
Up to the late 1960’s, the land surrounding Nosterfield supported at least seven farms (and families) within the village; now all of those farms are redundant and their valuable agricultural resource lost to the nation. Some of the earlier-quarried land has been restored to agricultural use, but this is not utilized by Nosterfield farmers The land has degraded to pastoral use and the livestock is mainly brought in from outlying areas. Part of the Nosterfield Nature reserve is now in agricultural use, but the land is very poor, most of the topsoil having been sold off.

Records for the present Nosterfield Quarry show that some 45% of the land taken was classified as being of the best and most versatile type. It is difficult to judge exactly what proportion has been restored to ‘as good as’ or ‘better than before’ or with a ‘potential’ for agricultural use. A few acres, possibly ten, have been restored to agricultural use, but aerial photographs would suggest that only a tiny proportion has been restored to having potential for agricultural use and, if any areas are claimed, then they will be mainly isolated by water. Only a small proportion of that 45% of the original BMV land taken will be returned to agricultural use.

Further loss of BMV land is unsustainable
PPG1 shows how planning decisions relate to the environment. Paragraph 4 advises: “Sustainable development seeks to deliver the objective of achieving, now and in the future, economic development to secure higher living standards while protecting and enhancing the environment”.

This advice summarises a policy agreed at the Earth Summit 92: The priority must be on maintaining and improving the capacity of the higher agricultural lands to support an expanding population. Agriculture has to meet this challenge (population expansion) mainly by increasing production on land already in use, and by avoiding further encroachment on land that is only marginally suitable for cultivation”. Principle 2 of the Declaration on Environment and Development says “States have, in accordance with the charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources, pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond the limits of their jurisdiction.

In taking our good agricultural land permanently out of production, we are placing the same pressures that previously destroyed much of our own biodiversity on to other areas of the world. Bulky foodstuffs are being transported around the world in an unsustainable way, leading to economic imbalance, pollution, injustice and starvation. That the world’s food supply system is fragile was demonstrated a couple of years ago when the Ukraine’s wheat harvest failed and the price doubled almost overnight. Dependence upon imported foodstuffs leaves the population of Britain very vulnerable. It nearly brought this country to its knees in two world wars ~ and could do so again. In the interests of national security it is inappropriate to speculate here on this subject, but it could well be broached at an appeal.

A large proportion of the restored quarries and the future ones will be deep water (more than 2 metres). Such water is known to be unproductive in biodiversity terms, and is a total waste of BMV land.

MPG7.3 shows how beneficial restorations “may lead to the release of some areas of land which would not otherwise be made available for mineral working, for example, the best and most versatile agricultural land. Conversely, where there is serious doubt whether satisfactory reclamation can be achieved at a particular site, then there must also be doubt whether permission for mineral working should be given”.

The importance of agriculture to this area is summed up in the Minerals and Waste Development Framework , Final Scoping Report dated January 2005 which states at paragraph 2.3.7 “Agriculture and tourism continue to be important components of the plan area’s economy, employing a significantly larger proportion of the workforce than the average for England.”

NYCC has ignored central government’s guidance and policy on agriculture and has effectively implementing the Swale and Ure Washland Project’s strategy of ‘wet’ restorations (even though it has no status) well below the water table enabling little or no potential for agricultural after-use. Previous restorations to just above the water table may not breach BMV and landscape policies, but they surely will at Ladybridge Farm and the areas north of Nosterfield Quarry ~ which are said to contain much the same depth of reserves as the present quarry. There is simply not sufficient suitable waste available to fill in the voids to allow restoration to agriculture.

Agriculture and Farm Viability

INTENSIVE LIVESTOCK UNITS
Under HDC Policy EM15, proposals for the establishment or extension of intensive livestock units and associated facilities, which require planning permission, will be permitted where …‘The development will not create an unacceptable nuisance through noise, smell or water pollution to streams or ground water; and
‘The proposal will not have a significant adverse impact on sites of nature conservation value or archaeological importance, or buildings of historic or architectural interest’

JUSTIFICATION
10.56 ‘Intensive livestock units by virtue of their scale and their potential for air, land and water pollution can have a significant environmental impact. Objectionable smells can arise from the units themselves, open slurry lagoons, storage tanks and from the spreading of slurry on the land. The pollution of water-courses and streams can result from seepage or spillage near storage compounds.’

10.59 ‘The Council will expect livestock units to be located on a site which minimises their visual impact. Landscaping which reflects the character of the area will be required, to soften the impact of buildings and allow them to blend in with their surroundings.’

The HDWLP advises at paragraph 7.19 ‘The quality of surface and ground water is vitally important to a wide range of uses and users including domestic, industrial and agricultural. It is also of great importance to general amenity, water based recreation, fisheries and nature conservation. The Council in conjunction with the Environment Agency will seek to resist development which threatens water quality and will generally encourage initiatives that result in an improvement in water quality.

Devaluing farmland biodiversity
Tarmac’s drawing no LO93022-D shows that Ladybridge Farm will lose some 90% of its land if the areas to the north, as submitted in the review of the MLP, are granted permission in some three years time. Tarmac proposes destroying some 30+ hectares (+40 taking into account the appeal) of BMV agricultural land (grade 3a), which is shown to produce ‘above average yields’ that also comprise a semi-natural habitat for farmland birds. Then it proposes to maintain the viability of Ladybridge Farm on its reduced area by intensification, which is known to devalue habitat potential. However, farmland is a target habitat for the Hambleton Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). It is a nonsense for Tarmac to suggest an increase in farmland biodiversity by destroying farmland, thereby putting the same pressures that have caused the general decline of farmland birds on to the remaining area.

Policy L11 of the HDWLP states that “areas of land have been damaged by intensive agriculture”. Also the Hambleton BAP, under the heading “Threats to lakes and ponds” says “Nutrient enrichment from agricultural fertilizer run-off can change mesotrophic lakes into eutrophic”. Intensifying the residual Ladybridge Farm would be contrary to this advice. The survival of the Norfolk Broads is in doubt because of eutrophication. Also in “A Better Quality of Life”, we read “Minimising the loss of soils to new developments presents a particular challenge”. In future, it will be given equal priority to that of air and water.

Down-sizing is contrary to policy
It is also stated by Tarmac (page 37, ESIII.9) that the current agricultural regime will destroy more hedges. This is contrary to DEFRA’s objectives as clearly shown in their current and proposed stewardship schemes. The Hambleton BAP states that the net loss of hedgerows in the area has been reversed. Downsizing and increased farm intensification is against current trends and government guidelines. Policy A2ii of the NY Structure Plan states that, when considering proposals involving the loss of agricultural land, account will be taken of the need to “retain economically viable farm units and avoid the unnecessary severance or sub-division of farms”. In the farm viability section of Tarmac’s 2004 ES at page 43.2, it is shown that the Ladybridge Farm will be so sub-divided.

The SUWP’s Mineral Sites Restoration Strategy proposes to “establish a best practice demonstration scheme on a farm neighbouring a minerals site” in order to demonstrate the benefits of integration and complementary restoration and land management for landscape, ecology, access and interpretation. Para 9.31 of RPG12 shows how farmers and land-owners should be encouraged to work the land in an environmentally-friendly way to help conserve archaeological and historic features, protect habitats, sustain landscapes and improve public access. Policy N.5 says “Policies in development plans should promote and reinforce agri-environmental support measures in order to encourage forms of sustainable land management that integrate wildlife, landscape, historical, recreational and access objectives with agricultural objectives.” The landscape of the “Thornborough Plain” requires such a holistic approach.

Adverse consequences of intensification
Paragraph IV, 65 states: ‘The farm has the land area available for sheds to accommodate an additional 187 cattle and, for the long term, this method of intensification would maintain farm economic viability at its current level. This analysis does not examine capital costs for such intensification programmes.’ The applicants assume that planning permission for the additional farm buildings required to maintain farm viability is a foregone conclusion. However, the guidance and justification shown below would indicate that this may not be the case.

Intensive farming practices have, in the recent past, been responsible for unprecedented detrimental change to the land, to biodiversity, to the health of the soil and to the landscape. The inevitability of agri-chemical pollutants and manure seeping into surrounding waters and provides a recipe for environmental disaster.

As an example of the sensitivity of these aquatic environments, consider the Nosterfield Nature Reserve, which is the “blue print” for quarry restorations. To understand the importance of the siting of conflicting environments, the West Tanfield Landfill Site (now closed) was in close proximity to the NNR, with thousands of gulls walking on and ingesting chemical and biological pollutants, and then resting and defecating on the reserve. An Environment Agency survey showed that the originally healthy aquatic environment had degenerated to the extent that it supported no fish and the only notable invertebrate life was midge larvae. Blue-green algal blooms have been recorded and over the past seven years there has been a dramatic slump in the numbers of young frogs and toads leaving the site.

Tarmac’s after-use proposals for the rump of Ladybridge Farm are not viable, sustainable or environmentally-friendly.

Cumulative Impact on the Community

MPS2, Appendix A3, advises that Planning authorities should:

Appendix 4 advises that:
Operators should be good neighbours by:

Creating lines of communication by:

MPS2, A2: “Operators should establish a good working relationship with the people with whom they will have to work with in the MPA, the local community and, where appropriate, other relevant interest groups. MPAs can significantly assist in the integration of a minerals operation within the community e.g. by providing information on the working of the planning system as applied to mineral development

MPS2, Paragraph 18: “When preparing the application and in proposing any necessary mitigation measures, the developer should demonstrate that any potential adverse effects have been properly and competently considered. Any adverse effects on local communities, environmental damage or loss of amenity must be kept to an acceptable minimum through the design of the proposals, including the use of planning obligation agreements where appropriate and the attachment of conditions. Where effective mitigation of unacceptable impact by those means is not possible, permission should be refused”.

No guidance is offered on how best to measure the impact on a community over a long period of time, but surely there are academics/consultants who can be retained to make such an evaluation? Nobody can pretend, for example, that in the absence of quarrying there would still be seven working farms in Nosterfield because national trends are for fewer and larger units ~ but now there are none. By way of comparison locally, both Well and Thornborough have two.

Local opinion differs from that of County Hall
NYCC officers consider that provisions for community participation are good, whereas in the experience of local people they are very poor. Tarmac undoubtedly runs a tidy operation, but it is not a good neighbour in many of the ways advised above and refuses to recognise that its wet nature conservation restoration has caused problems that remain unresolved. Quarry restoration to agriculture offered some degree of certainty – but water/biodiversity based restoration, which is essentially experimental in nature, certainly does not.

Over the years, a plethora of documents catalogue issues that have caused a great deal of uncertainty and heartache over minerals extraction:

The unsatisfactory nature of the local liaison system
The lack of meaningful liaison, which manifests itself most obviously through the inadequacies of the parish council, causes serious problems. The present system relies upon twice-yearly meetings between Tarmac, NYCC, HDC and the Liaison Officer appointed by the parish council. The latter receives business from Tarmac, patently lacks objectivity and reports only to the parish council which decides what it is prepared to communicate to parishioners. Those attending PC meetings are allowed only three minutes to speak, but only if they have been quick enough to spot the notification of a meeting (generally posted up at very short notice) in time to submit a written request within the statutory three working days. Members of the community have been berated and belittled by parish councillors for asking questions.

The Liaison Officer claims to hold undisclosed legal advice relating to the Ladybridge Farm application and has paid for and circulated legal advice against the proposed Conservation Plan. The current “liaison” system is so biased and cumbersome that it is as good as useless. By the time messages have passed back and forth, whatever the matter was, it’s too late; decisions have been made and the job’s been done, with awkward questions ruled out of order. When messages do get through, local people find that genuine concerns (eg. over long-promised safe off-road access to neighbouring villages) that seem to necessitate protracted negotiations come to nothing (i.e. when decisions are based on the spurious assertion that such access “would be detrimental to the Biodiversity Action Plan). In fact, the loss of footpaths and non-delivery of promised replacements is a major unresolved complaint.

Loss of footpaths
At Nosterfield, Tarmac, having taken advice from the LUCT/SUWP triumvirate, has created a reed-bed ‘in accordance with the Biodiversity Action Plan’ in order to attract bittern. This reed-bed is next to a public footpath and the line of a new one promised by Tarmac. LUCT documents emphasise how important it is to minimise disturbance from human and dog activity. Our Liaison Officer is recorded as saying that the community was happy with this reed-bed proposal when it was at the discussion stage. In fact, local people were not consulted ~ or they would have pointed out that the RSPB stresses the need to avoid conflict with the community when proposing actions to attract rare species. So they now fear that the footpath won’t materialise on bird-disturbance grounds, despite the fact that the reed-bed has been created only a few yards from a field used for clay pigeon shooting!

Public access has been a problem here for years. Footpaths promised to replace those sacrificed to quarrying have not been created on the grounds that they would be detrimental to HBAP Target Species. Yet shooting takes place regularly, whether it be ‘sporting’ or predator control. Bird scarers go off with a bang, guns go off with a bang. As a result, it is widely believed that statutory public access is resisted because landowners feel it would be detrimental to their bird-shooting interests.

In support of the current application, Tarmac states at paragraph II.91: ‘It is not proposed to establish any public access to the site; there is sufficient provision already within the existing quarry area. In addition, restricting access will benefit the natural parts of the site. Thus, while public access would be a substantial additional benefit to the proposal, it is not considered essential since there are other benefits to recommend the development’. This simply is not true because the replacement footpaths promised some fifteen years ago have not been created and neither have the statutory footpaths promised subsequently. It now appears that they cannot materialise until quarry activity has ceased, so it was fundamentally disingenuous of Tarmac to sell this package to the community when there was no intention to deliver it.

Liaison/community involvement is, in reality, a device enabling Tarmac to announce changes to its restoration strategy – it neither considers peoples’ concerns nor addresses what the community really wants or needs. It is apparent that the County Council accepts at face value assurances that affairs are in good order, thereby simply box-ticking rather than monitoring satisfaction at grass roots level, contrary to MPS2, Appendix B1, which states: “…It should never become an audit-driven paper chase not related to real world impacts.”

In Appendix I of the Environmental Statement, the current application promises more of the same: an Annual Review overseen by a list of bodies that specifically exclude the local representation increasingly required by central government.

If approved, this application must be conditional upon the approval by local people of a more effective liaison mechanism.

Cumulative Impact on Hydrology

Effects of groundwater equalisation
Tarmac says that there will be no adverse hydrological effects due to the residual pool having a water level of more than one metre below the existing lake at Ladybridge, from which it would be separated by a narrow land-bridge (Moor Lane). Yet water finds its own level, following the path of least resistance to an area of lower pressure. So the water level in the existing lake can be expected to equalise to that of the new pool, with consequent knock-on effects to the western lake and the Nosterfield Nature Reserve.

That there is an east-west “watershed” that can be artificially altered dividing the groundwater flow into northward and southward flowing systems is proved by local experience. In the period 2000-2001, water levels in the NNR rose to, and remained at, around 42 metres for many months. The present quarry workings were at a great distance from the reserve, yet their levels were around 39 metres. This indicates clearly that those two water bodies had little influence over each other. The present quarry is now working close to the NNR and, during the last 12 months, records will indicate that the levels on the quarry and the reserve have equalised (give or take a few centimetres) thus demonstrating that the present quarry’s activities are indeed affecting adjoining water bodies. The RSPB’s hand-book issues many warnings, illustrated by case histories, of exactly this dangers when gravel is extracted.

The above is of concern because the RSPB Habitat Creation Handbook shows (page 124) that water deeper than 1.5 metres has a proportionately detrimental effect on conservation value. Tarmac’s proposal already shows some 40% of the lake to the south of Ladybridge farmhouse as being deeper than 2 metres. If, as is strongly indicated, water does flow from the existing quarry as outlined above, the only remedial measure would be to raise the water levels on the proposed site. Such action would considerably increase the area of deep water (low conservation value) as well as reducing farmland and wetland habitat thus blowing the projected B.A.P. targets out of (or, perhaps more accurately, in to) the water.

The LUCT installed boreholes in 03/04 on the nature reserve “as a basis for determining a hydrological setting for the water bodies, and their relationship to the adjacent quarrying activities now and in the future”. Such concern over water draw-down provides a second local illustration of the destabilising hydrological effects consequent upon continual quarrying.
Both Tarmac and the LUCT/SUWP team have repeatedly refused to make the relevant hydrological records public, despite a planning condition that the above records should be in the public domain and the expressed concern of local people.

Hydrological effects on buried archaeology
Evidence abounds demonstrating how the groundwater has been adversely affected since extensive quarrying began at Nosterfield. Desiccation of archaeological remains is suggested in the archaeological assessment for the present quarry. It states that it was not clear from the available evidence whether or not the archaeological value of the peat deposits in the Flasks area “had been in any way lessened or even removed by continued drainage of the general area both for agricultural and quarrying purposes”. FAS’s Nosterfield Quarry Interim Report 2005 reported at page 97 that a well, believed to be of nineteenth century origin, had been found and that “notably, the feature did not reach the current water table, suggesting a drop in water levels since that time.”

Page 13 of Tarmac’s Supporting Statement at II.19, states that: “as a result, the water table in the vicinity of the B6267 road would have been about 1.2 m higher than in the vicinity of the present weir” and, at II.20, “this will in turn modify the position of the groundwater divide between the northward and southward flowing systems by moving the divide to the south thereby slightly increasing the aquifer area that drains into the Ings Goit”. In its response to the Draft Conservation Plan, the LUCT states at ref no. 2.73 “Adding to the valuable points made in this paragraph; many of the ash Fraxinus excelsior are showing signs of stress probably associated with drought-stress, caused by lowering water tables in the area". This concern is not mentioned in Tarmac’s current Environmental Statement.

The present quarry is affecting areas of importance to nature conservation and sites of probable archaeological importance. The lane from Well to Langwith used to have a wide wooded wet area along its southern side, but this has largely dried out. North of Ladybridge Farm before the road junction to Well, a spring surrounded by trees used to feed the ditch along the western side of the road. This too, an area of archaeological potential, has dried up.

Increased potential for subsidence
Tarmac’s archaeological consultants are now suggesting that the Ladybridge site is subject to ongoing subsidence due to underlying gypsum dissolving. In nearby Ripon, sink holes that have developed in similar deposits have swallowed houses. According to page 12, paragraph 29, of Summary Supplementary Information, “Nosterfield lies in one of the most active geological sites in Britain. Beneath the glacial and post glacial deposits of sand, gravel and clay there are great seams of gypsum”.

Tarmac’s Environmental Assessment assures us that any shortfall in the water levels on Lingham Lake caused by drawdown from the proposed new water-bodies will be made good by re-charging it from the lower aquifer. The SUWP is promoting the use of disused gravel quarries as reservoirs for re-charging the lower aquifer to meet shortfalls caused by water abstraction. Flushing more water through these deep layers of soluble gypsum is surely asking for trouble ~ and may damage the stability of the Scheduled Ancient Monuments in the vicinity.

Despite an extant planning condition, Tarmac has consistently refused to provide detailed data from the measuring boreholes ~ nor has NYCC been able to help under the Freedom of Information Act. This project is headed by Hafren Water (Tarmac’s consultants), which was ‘formed in early 2000 by the managing director Chris Leake, former senior hydrogeologist at Tarmac Quarry Products’. The project zone is the same as the area of the Swale and Ure Washland Project ~ with pretty much the same remit and partners. It is disturbing that NYCC’s Planning and Countryside Unit claims to know little about it, despite being partners in the Water-based Quarry Restoration Project. At the time of writing the frequently requested hydrological data has not been forthcoming from Tarmac, NYCC or the LUCT/SUWP.

The potential adverse effects of groundwater being caused to move in new directions or at increased rates and dissolving more gypsum must be thoroughly investigated early rather than later.

Cumulative, long-term financial burden = unsustainability

The long-term costs of funding ‘wet’ nature conservation restorations must also be taken into account. The RSPB’s Habitat Creation Handbook (Chapter 2.6) states that “… nature conservation after-uses, like formal recreation, rarely generate an income and therefore require (continual) sources of funding”. When Tarmac completes its programme of restoration, the continuing costs of maintaining the wet after-uses will devolve on to the public purse.

To illustrate this point, Councillor Stanley recently revealed that Ripon City Council was faced with the dilemma of selling off allotments or raising the precept in order to fund the Leisure Centre and the exhausted quarry known as Quarry Moor Nature Reserve, “which costs a great deal to maintain”. Prior to becoming a burden on the rates, Quarry Moor managed to achieve SSSI levels without funding or restricting public access.

Tarmac has created a reed-bed on Nosterfield Quarry, largely funded by the ALSF. Surely this restoration detail should rightly have been funded by Tarmac itself?

The importance of agriculture to this area is summed up in the Minerals and Waste Development Framework’s Final Scoping Report of January 2005 which states at paragraph 2.3.7: “Agriculture and tourism continue to be important components of the plan area’s economy, employing a significantly larger proportion of the workforce than the average for England.”

So, if this application is approved, we lose BMV land farmed by private enterprise while public funds will be required to finance the wet restoration indefinitely - how expensive does that make sand and gravel in reality?

Tarmac’s proposed after-use plan is not sustainable.

The Proposed After-use Restoration Strategy is Unsustainable

Tarmac’s existing wet restoration strategy is demonstrably based upon a flawed logic that is leaving an inheritance of problems for local people. To extend that strategy further across this fragile landscape will simply exacerbate an already unsatisfactory situation.

Based upon the example of the Nosterfield Nature Reserve, any new areas of nature conservation will become no-go areas, where only temporary wire-fenced public access is permitted and our children won’t even be allowed to run. The NNR displays many restrictive signs on Nosterfield’s only (but still incomplete) permissive off-road access to West Tanfield, at least two of of which include the command “avoid sudden movements”. These permissive paths, owned by the LUCT and Tarmac are not subject to DEFRA payments and therefore may be closed without notice.

Even this minimalist condescension to local people will not happen at Ladybridge because preventing public access will “benefit the natural parts of the site” (page 34, II 105 Environmental Statement). This is plainly against the spirit of the Sandford Principle, which requires that “conservation should prevail over recreation only as a measure of last resort”. The RSPB’s Habitat Creation Handbook advises that sites which attract rare birds must be managed carefully to avoid frustration and conflict between interested parties. RPG12 10.25 warns that “…large-scale extraction over long periods … can change the landscape in ways that even the best standards of reclamation cannot reverse and also inflict permanent damage on local communities suffering severe and continuous impact on their quality of life for extended periods and, at 10.33, that “All minerals applications must be subjected to the most rigorous examination, and all developments should be demonstrated to be in the public interest before being allowed to proceed”.

Tarmac also insists that there is sufficient public access on the restored parts of the current quarry site. The original proposal of 1992 showed a fairly comprehensive footpath and bridleway system that is being revised (ie. diminished) in the interest of nature conservation. This unsustainable attempt to leave a landscape frozen in time is contrary to Artcle 21 of the 1992 Earth Summit and to one of the key objectives of RPG12 “to protect local communities and recognize their particular needs.”

Despite Tarmac’s assertions to the contrary, this development would destroy the potential for this “restored” land to meet the vital needs of future generations, while the destruction of this best and most versatile agricultural land would be contrary to the guidance given in the current NYMLP, the HDWLP and policy M6 of the North Yorkshire structure plan.

Habitat creation (and destruction)

Flawed bird count claim
Tarmac asserts that the loss of this open farmland would be outweighed by the benefits to nature conservation delivered by the habitat it proposes creating. According to the RSPB’s Habitat Creation Handbook, this means “the construction of interesting and attractive ecological communities on sites which support little or no nature conservation interests” (Parker 1998). So it is unsurprising to find Tarmac attempting to paint a bleak picture of the Ladybridge habitat by quoting misleading statistics. A sceptical letter from ecologist Brian Moreland published in the Darlington & Stockton Times denigrates this ploy:

        “Having just waded through Tarmac Northern’s Environmental Statement for the Nosterfield Quarry extension, I must congratulate them for acquiring the services of Stevie Wonder for the wildlife survey. Mind you, the grand total of 9 bird species recorded from the area is marginally better than the blackbird, mallard, magpie and rabbit recorded from the banks of the River Ure and submitted as the wildlife survey for Brown & Potter’s extension at Ripon.
        “I am totally neutral over this present planning application but, when I read these selective environmental statements that are issued with major planning applications, I wonder at the integrity of these so-called ecologists who compile them. I drove past Ladybridge the other day at 50 mph and counted10 bird species without taking my eyes off the road! Why, then, do so-called ecologists only manage to see carrion crow, magpie and pigeon? Does being paid by the quarry company make them go blind?
        “According to the Harrogate & District naturalists’ Bird Report for 2003, over 2000 greylag geese, 200 Canada geese, 3500 golden plover, 3600 lapwing and 130 curlew were reported from Ladybridge. These birds do not feed on water. They feed in the fields. The extensive loss of winter feeding will, to some degree, affect these birds. Also found in the area are important farmland birds such as linnet, corn bunting, tree sparrow, yellowhammer and skylark. Tarmac’s ecologist failed to mention theses species.
        “Quite simply, the quarry company has paid for a statement that “dumbs down” the existing wildlife that is of any value. It doesn’t actually lie by stating certain species are not present, but it infers their absence by not mentioning them.”

Mr Moreland is supported by Simon Warwick, who is ‘spearheading’ the SUWP. He stated of the Ladybridge site in the LUCT’s response to the Draft Conservation Plan at ref no. 2.86 that: “The Harrogate and District Naturalist Society Bird Reports are produced annually. A search through these and discussions with the Vice County Bird Recorder (a LUCT Warden) would demonstrate the obvious importance of this area for a wide range of farmland and associated birds, notably amongst these are corn bunting, Emberiza calandra, and Turtle Dove. This area along with Ladybridge Farm and to a lesser extent Nosterfield LNR has long been recognised as important for both breeding and wintering (flocks of up to 100) corn buntings.”

“Enhancement” has reduced bird numbers
The following data demonstrate the wide biodiversity range we have in the commonest of places, and that ‘habitat creation’ may be rather less successful then claimed:

Environmental Statement Appendix V Ecology and Nature Conservation
Annex 1: Species List shows 90 species of flora and fauna on the Ladybridge Farm site.

Annex 2: SINC Citations: 56 Species recorded on 0.5 hectare of grass verge on Moor Lane near Southwood House in 45 minutes.

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society’s Handbook Bird Reports:
65 species on the Nosterfield Nature Reserve recorded in 1hour 30 minutes on 30-08-1999 and 43 species on grass verge near Nosterfield Quarry entrance recorded in 20 minutes.

The following table demonstrates how bird numbers have fallen in this area during the period of increased mineral extraction, at a time when habitats were being specifically created for them and when there was a greater interest in people seeing and recording them:

Shelduck 1990 – (17) 2003 – (10)
Pochard 1988 – (Feb 229) 2003 – (Jan 167) (Feb 65)
Tufted Duck 1996 – (205) 2003 – (179)
Goldeneye 1996 – (35) 2003 – (31)
Oystercatcher 1995 – (193) 2003 – (112)
Ringed Plover 1981 – (35) 2003 – (28)
Golden Plover 1995 – (2000) 2003 – (1236)
Grey plover 1985 – (9) 2003 – (4)
Lapwing 1989 – (Feb 3000) 2003 – (2000 Dec)
Sanderling 1987 – (7 max Aug) 2003 – (4 max May)
Little Stint 1983 – (14 on 16th Sept) 2003 – (1 in Sept)
Curlew Sandpiper 1988 – (53) 2003 – (5)
Dunlin 1976 – (50 in Oct) 2003 – (1 in Oct)
Dunlin 1988 – (67 Dec) 2003 – (0 Dec)
Ruff 1980 – (17 max) 2003 – (9 max)
Bar Tailed Godwit 1979 – (30 max) 2003 – (1 max)
Whimbrel 1980 – (19) 2003 – (4)
Spotted redshank 1980 – (5) 2003 - (1)
Redshank 1994 – (39 max June) 2003 – (36 max April; 24 June)
Greenshank 1981 – (13 max) 2003 – (6 max)
Wood Sandpiper 1988 – (5 max) 2003 – (2 max)

MPG7.3 shows how beneficial restorations “may lead to the release of some areas of land which would not otherwise be made available for mineral working, for example, the best and most versatile agricultural land. Conversely, where there is serious doubt whether satisfactory reclamation can be achieved at a particular site, then there must also be doubt whether permission for mineral working should be given.

From the bird records quoted above, it is clear that Tarmac is not able to demonstrate “satisfactory reclamation.”

Flawed survey baseline
The Hambleton BAP states that there are three hectares of magnesian grassland in the district, listing their five locations ~ but some of these are now woodland. The BAP also fails to mention the extensive quarried areas of limestone in the Nosterfield area, which are described in Appendix 4 of the HDWLP as "Nosterfield Lime Kilns SE 271807 Calcareous grassland”. Noting such inaccuracies the electorate is entitled to ask how many other errors does the BAP contain? And how can gains/losses effectively be gauged against a flawed baseline survey?

The RSPB Habitat Creation Handbook (page 9) states “The current state of knowledge of habitat creation does not allow it to be used as compensation for the loss of scarce habitats. Ecologists question whether habitat creation can play a significant role in conserving species and biodiversity generally or whether authentic communities with full species complements can ever be a feasible goal.” This emphasizes the need for a proper survey and calls into question the whole restoration strategy of this Nosterfield blueprint. Is it acceptable to leave whole communities as islands on this questionable concept? The Sandford Principle must apply here.

What is not widely known is that while the areas of water at Nosterfield and the number of visiting birdwatchers has grown to the accompaniment of a proliferation of publicity, awards and accolades, the number of birds recorded has fallen (see copy of bird count). Rare birds, usually blown off course, are recorded even when just flying over the site.

Bird numbers could be falling because the current quarry has de-watered the Nosterfield Nature Reserve ~ or it may be that the screening to provide ‘discreet compartmentalism’ provides vantage points for predators. Only a minimum of fence posts and trees are allowed on the N.N.R. because of the predator perching problem. Perhaps it is the regular shooting of predators or organized wildfowl shoots that are scaring the birds. It may be that some birds are attracted to these artificial habitats in preference to their more traditional areas such as estuaries or uplands, only to have their young picked off by gulls and other omnivorous predators which are the true natives of the surrounding farmland.

There are strong indications that the restoration strategy of creating unnatural species-specific concentration areas, which requires constant intervention, is not working as intended. The questionable biodiversity gains that Tarmac claim must be weighed against those of DEFRA’s new farm stewardship schemes, which appear to be now delivering positive benefits for wildlife.

Conclusion

The granting of planning permission at Ladybridge Farm would send a clear message to all mineral operators and electorates surrounded by sand and gravel in North Yorkshire. The message will be that operators need have no regard for policies on high grade agricultural land, Preferred Areas, size of extensions, archaeological sites, landscape and communities ~ provided that they plant reeds and trees on exhausted sites and claim biodiversity enhancement.

The Friends of Thornborough Henges insist that the locality cannot accommodate further adverse change and that planning permission should be refused on the grounds shown above and the remaining grounds determining refusal for the previous application in accordance with planning law. Should planning permission be granted then we expect a raft of conditions in accordance with government guidance as advised in MPS2.