“They agree they have got it wrong”
Friends of Thornborough Henges spokeswoman
PLANS for a controversial quarry extension near an ancient monument site have been thrown into disarray following a legal challenge.
Tarmac Northern won planning permission in January last year from North Yorkshire County Council to extract 1.1 million tonnes of sand and gravel over eight years from land at Ladybridge Farm, between Bedale and Ripon, half a mile from the nearest of three Bronze Age earthwork henges on Thornborough Moor.
Tarmac said the unanimous decision would ensure the future of 15 full-time quarry workers and 40 hauliers at the neighbouring Nosterfield quarry, where reserves are almost exhausted.
The henges, described as the Stonehenge of the North, have legal protection as a scheduled ancient monument, but worried campaigners who organised a 10,000-name petition said that their surroundings, including Ladybridge, must be protected from the effects of further quarrying.
The formal decision notice was not issued until October following completion of a detailed agreement with Tarmac covering conditions attached to the permission.
However, council lawyers have now confirmed it should be quashed following a legal challenge on eight grounds concerning the handling of the planning application. The issue is expected to be reconsidered by the committee at Masham Town Hall, on April 22.
A spokeswoman for pressure group Friends of Thornborough Henges said it challenged the decision in the name of one of its members.
She said: "A number of faults were identified in the way the county council made their decision. They agree they have got it wrong on three counts and have agreed to the quashing of the decision through the judicial review procedure.
"There are still five grounds outstanding which remain to be challenged and, on that score, they should be extremely careful when they take their decision at the meeting due to take place on April 22."
Gordon Gresty, the council's director of business and environmental services, said: "This development has had a contentious history and the legal challenge needs to be seen against the background of the wide range of issues the committee took into account when it made its decision.
"Those issues were properly and comprehensively considered."
"However, in order to avoid further legal proceedings, we have agreed to the quashing of the present planning approval and it would be our intention to take the issue back to the committee in the future."
Some preliminary work has been done at Ladybridge, but mineral extraction has not started.
A Tarmac spokesman said: "We understand that following legal submissions, the planning consent is no longer in effect."
"We hope that a corrected report will be placed before the committee at the earliest opportunity. Meanwhile, we have stopped work at the Ladybridge site."
By Brian Redhead
Northern Echo - 5 March 2008