Hi, in response to your questions regarding the substance of TimeWatch?s concerns regarding the past and current archaeological work carried out at Ladybridge, I think it is important to understand the background to this.
On 20th September a meeting of NYCC planning committee accepted a request from Tarmac to defer the decision regarding the application to extend existing quarrying operations into Ladybridge farm ? a 109 acre field that sits within the setting of the Thornborough Henges complex. So far there has been a considerable campaign of opposition to the proposal, including more than 1,000 letters of objection, a petition of 10,000 signatures, statements of support and representation from The Landmarks Foundation, CIA, CBA, CBA Yorkshire, Yorkshire Archaeology Society and English Heritage.
Elected representatives agreed to the deferment despite the advice of the CC planning professionals who had recommended refusal. The relevant sections of the report state as follows:
it is recommended that the application BE REFUSED for the following reasons:-
? The proposal is contrary to Policy 4/8 of the North Yorkshire Mineral Local Plan as it would have an unacceptable adverse impact on nationally important archaeological remains-; and Proposed site is not a preferred area nor a small scale extension
? The proposal is contrary to Policies 3/2, 3/3 and 3/4 of the North Yorkshire Minerals Local Plan in that the site is neither a Preferred Area or Area of Search nor does it constitute a small scale extension by virtue of its geographical extent and scale in relation to the existing quarry working, mineral quantity and annual production.
8.12 It can be seen therefore that there is currently no overriding need for the mineral that would outweigh other material considerations.
8.16 English Heritage and other objectors have suggested that the trial trenching was not sufficient to adequately characterise the archaeology, particularly in relation to Thornborough Henges, which are a scheduled monument. The proximity of the scheduled monument approximately a kilometre to the southwest lends additional significance to archaeological remains of the prehistoric period. The precise extent and significance of this archaeology is therefore a matter of dispute between the applicant and several key objectors.
8.17 Although concerned about the adequacy of trial trench sample size, English Heritage and other objectors have argued that on the basis of the information available, the southern part of the application area contains "nationally important archaeological features" for which insitu preservation is the only appropriate option and quarrying should therefore not be permitted.
It should be noted that that application does not simply fail because of the impact on archaeology, It fails a further three more significant policies and fails to show there is any need to consider the application due to lack of resources.
The planning delay, is to allow Tarmac to address a single issue ? the archaeology, but since it will not address the other failures we believe that the delay should not have been granted ? for the application fails to show there is a need.
This is why we feel the additional archaeology is an unwarranted intrusion on the archaeology at Ladybridge.
Furthermore, this is from English Heritages response to the application:
?It is clear from the evaluation report that this combination of techniques has not characterised the archaeological deposits of the Ladybridge site. Recent research would indicate that a 2% excavation sample is not an adequate sample size to detect early prehistoric activity, whilst the use of long, narrow trenches further compounds the limitations of a 2% sample.?
It has been our contention all along that Ladybridge is not simply an issue of ?setting of the henges?. We have contended that Ladybridge forms an integral part of Thornborough?s archaeological landscape. Based on the evidence uncovered at Nosterfield Quarry, together with fieldwalking done by Newcastle University we have contended that a Neolithic short term camp extended onto Ladybridge from Nosterfield and that other features are also likely to exist ? Nosterfield Quarry had ritual remains from periods up until the Late Iron Age ? Ladybridge is close to a glacial lake that appears to have had some significance to ritual life at Thorborough and that lake was drying out over time.
When we discovered the pre-quarry archaeological assessment was for a 2% trenching, we immediately raised our concerns because of two factors:
1. Recommendations in Hey and Lacey ? Evaluation of Archaeological Decision-making Processes and Sampling Strategies that strongly suggested that evaluations of less than 5% in Neolithic/BA landscapes was unlikely to reveal any useable information ? they suggest 8-10% or more. English Heritage also stated that they recommend a follow up targeted excavations following an initial 8-10% evaluation.
2. Evidence from The archaeological work carried out by Tarmac some 10 years ago on a site known as area 1:
The outcome of the initial 2% evaluation:
?The five trenches in the east area only revealed three features that may be of some antiquity, but none of these produced any finds to support this assumption. The two features 1103 and 1002 could be a ditch terminals. If so, their alignment and shape suggest that they are two different ditches, with feature 1103 possibly containing a palisade.?
What was found under the watching brief:
?As stated above it is the pits and hearths in Area 1 which are of greatest archaeological interest. Both the pottery and lithic traditions imply dates between 4300 and 2000 BC and they currently constitute the largest group of Neolithic features of this type so far recognised in the North of England. Given their proximity to the henges, which are currently the subject of nationally funded research by Jan Harding, their significance is greatly increased.?
?In the light of the results obtained from the 1995 watching brief it is clear that the results obtained from previous work requires re-interpretation. The pits discovered in the AOC evaluation clearly belong to the same general period and type of occupation, and suggest that it extends into other areas of proposed extraction.?
Our opinion has always been that the evidence provided by Nosterfield has comfirmed the area holds archaeology of great significance and that this area should not be quarried but so long as Tarmac are determined to continue with it we must make sure that the best methodoligies are used to ensure that ALL archaeology is located and understood prior to any determination. It is clear that 2% cannot be said to be the best or even adequate.
Geophysics has been shown to be a little value (though not all methods have been applied) and whilst flint scatters have proven to be good indicators, these are only approximate and appear to be diagnostic of only a few feature types.
This was our position prior to the decision to delay the planning determination and whilst we were concerned that the council had granted the delay on grounds that should not affect the overall decision we hoped that this would be a chance for English Heritage to explain that these features cannot be viewed in isolation ? it is clear they are related to the henges and as such form part of the monument complex ? if we allowed Tarmac?s approach (seeing each feature in isolation) I?m certain the same appraoch could be applied on Thornborough Moor itself.
However, now that the project brief for the new assessment has been published, it is clear that it appears to satisfy neither our wish for a 8-10 assessment nor Tarmac?s wish to show the archaeology as being not of national importance.
The trenching has been placed on what is called a ?transition zone?, which presumably is the best guess for the furthest reaches of the short term camp. It does assess the archaeological potential of 75% of the site (no trenching in the north and east) and neither does it serve to estimate the density and structure of the settlement (no works within the settlement boundaries).
Whilst locating the boundaries of the settlement is certainly an important thing to do, but I?d suggest it is a secondary concern ? surely we need to know that the right archaeological evaluation has been applied to the whole site and its results have been properly interpreted? English Heritage are not happy about what has been done so far and given the above evidence neither are we.
Regarding the importance of the asset, which Tarmac are very keen to prove is not nationally important, English Heritage say this:
?Nevertheless English Heritage believes that, on the basis of the information available, the southern part of the Ladybridge Farm site contains nationally important archaeological features. These features relate to the zone of early prehistoric activity running east from and through the Nosterfield Quarry site. The archaeological deposits within Nosterfield Quarry are clearly of national importance and will be destroyed by the proposed extraction. The loss of archaeological features without record from the area west of the henges coupled with the loss of a large assemblage of early prehistoric and later features within Nosterfield Quarry (e.g. Investigation 3 (Trench 4, Area 1) increases the importance of preserving in-situ the surviving archaeology at Ladybridge Farm.?
In situ preservation is the only appropriate option for the deposits in this part of the site (i.e. south of the field boundary running west/east from Ladybridge Farm), and quarrying should therefore not be permitted.?
Our position is quite simple. Thornborough is Yorkshires most important ancient site, we need to preserve as much of the monument as we can. This includes all releated archaeology, even less significant monuments from later periods ? they all serve to illustrate a site whose history and setting we need to take great care of. Ladybridge is known to contain a settlement, this in itself has a setting that must cover much of Ladybridge. The remainder of the site has had insufficient archaeology to judge its merits but we suggest, given the other policy breaches and lack of fundamental mitigation this quarry aplication should not be permitted.
Tarmac position is as follows:
?The applicant does not concede that the archaeological deposits recorded on Ladybridge Farm are of national significance. Currently the dating of the cursus, henges and other features has not been adequately resolved to prove a contemporary relationship between the recorded deposits and any particular phase of monument construction and use. Establishing such a chronology should be the priority of any further research in that area.?
This statement is inconsistent with earlier statements regarding Area 1 at Nosterfield Quarry ? which is the settlement that extends onto Ladybridge:
?Given their proximity to the henges, which are currently the subject of nationally funded research by Jan Harding, their significance is greatly increased.?
There is a reason why this archaeology has to be of national importance:
NYMLP Policy 4/8 - Archaeological Sites
"Proposals for mining operations and the associated depositing of mineral waste which would have an unacceptable effect on nationally important archaeological remains, whether scheduled or not, and their settings, will not be permitted. The Mineral Planning Authority will seek to preserve, in-situ or by record, other sites of regional, county or local importance, as appropriate to their archaeological interest, in making decisions on planning applications."
This is the local planning policy ? it does not give an option for preservation by record of nationally important remains.
Regarding our recent criticisms. In no way were we trying to imply that any individual archaeologist is not working to the best of their ability. What we are saying is that the archaeology being carried out is not really going to change anything. In addition we feel that it is not being carried out in the right circumstances to deliver maximum results. We are concerned that there are no tents being deployed, I?m sure you know what the weathers been like here. This combined with the short timescales mean that the archaeologists have a real challenge at the site, as well as the follow up specialist reports if these are to be collated and reported by January.
The chronology for the previous assessment was as follows:
September 2003 ? Pre-application Written Statement of Works agreed with North Yorkshire County Council for the archaeological assessment of Ladybridge.
June 2004 ? Tarmac submit application to Quarry Ladybridge Farm. No archaeological assessment of Ladybridge is included.
September 2004 ? NYCC planning committee opts to delay consideration of the application until after the archaeological assessment has been provided.
June 2005 ? Archaeological assessment is submitted by Tarmac.
August 2005 ? Archaeological mitigation strategy sent to interested parties.
You can see from this that Tarmac knew the archaeological evaluation was essential in September 2004, yet it still took almost a year to complete this. Whilst not delivering the full 8-10% assessment we would like, the new excavations are extensive and I?d suggest that the trenching strategy owes more to the compressed timescales than the optimum way of understanding a site of national importance with minimum disturbance. I am certain there may be some logic behind the decision making process regarding the current works but I?m afraid we were not privy to this and so far this has not been published.
Can I just say I do understand the position archaeologists are in. As far as I am concerned archaeologists are definitely part of the solution. I make it a point to emphasise this at every meeting I do and I am really sorry if anyone thinks I?m getting at them. You must understand, with the best tools in the world it is still possible to design a project to have a pre-determined outcome or to present the results of research in a way that undermines the value of the research itself.
Save the Thornborough Henge Complex - http://www.timewatch.org