Last month I reported that Tarmac Northern Ltd had applied for a delay in their application to quarry Ladybridge Farm in order that they could “perform further investigations” regarding the archaeology found on the site.
Ladybridge farm sits within one of Britain’s largest and most important ancient monument complexes, the Thornborough Henges and the archaeology on the site is of national importance and should not be quarried.
Tarmac asked for this delay due to the strong likelihood that the application would be turned down due to English Heritage’s strong rejection of the application due to the adverse impact on national heritage.
English Heritage objected to the application because the 2% survey performed by Tarmac was insufficient to locate all the archaeology on the site. Given this, and since Tarmac’s investigations did locate a number of Neolithic features English Heritage chose to regard the entire site as nationally important unless further work was done to prove the full extent of all archaeology on the site.
Readers may remember that I suggested in my previous article that Tarmac’s aim was not to ensure all archaeology was found and understood, but to stop English Heritage from causing them problems. It looks like they have succeeded.
Following Tarmac’s discussions with English Heritage, a new programme of investigation is being carried out at Ladybridge, but it looks like English Heritage have already accepted that Tarmac can quarry most of the site without performing any additional investigations!
So how can a public body perform such a u-turn without losing face? Simple, they have agreed a fudged programme of work, on the surface this appears to be an extensive programme of investigation but in reality more than 70% of the site will see no additional work and the implication is that only the little archaeology found so far is all that can be expected. In other words, English Heritage have accepted that they were wrong – there is no need to perform an 8-10% assessment of the site, the 2% will do.
So how does this affect Tarmac’s application? It is likely that around 15% of Ladybridge will be set aside by Tarmac, not to be quarried and this will be painted as a major step forward that should be acceptable to everyone. Any archaeology found in the areas to be quarried will be destroyed regardless of it’s importance and English Heritage will keep very quiet about this, as they do on all the quarry sites where this happens. They may have the right to schedule newly found archaeology but they never do this for fear of upsetting the developer.
Many will suggest that the archaeology is not the only aspect of the application that stands against Tarmac and this is true – it’s not actually the most important breach of council policy – the application will cause an overproduction of gravel and is not in any preferred areas set out within the councils Minerals Plan – these are far more important to the council as they fundamentally affect the validity of that plan.
However, I would suggest that if the council were really minded to implement the Mineral Plan then this delay would not have been granted – for these are issues so fundamental they are extremely strong grounds for rejection regardless of the situation regarding the archaeology.
Unless there is a major public outcry, expect this application to be granted, and once it is granted do not expect any site visits from North Yorkshire County officials or English Heritage to see that the terms of the application are adhered to.
Yet another piece of Britain’s heritage destroyed, yet another case of the corporate wielding far too much power and our “watchdogs” scampering for cover.
Do you want to be a part of the public outcry? Why not sign the petition?
Why not spend a day getting your friends to sign? Why not visit the wwwtimewatch.org website and see how else you can help?
This battle should be very winnable – the application fails at least five council policies. But as always, if we let it slip under the counter we only have ourselves to blame.