Calls to protect ancient site from quarry

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HERITAGE experts have warned an important prehistoric archaeological site must be safeguarded if plans to extend a long-running quarrying operation in Yorkshire are given the go-ahead.

Officials from English Heritage have claimed there are likely to be “significant archaeological deposits and environmental evidence” dating to the Mesolithic period beneath agricultural fields near Scarborough and called on senior councillors to ensure that safeguards are put in place to ensure archaeological excavations are carried out before work can be done.

Members of North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee are being urged to approve a major extension to the existing sand and gravel workings at Wykeham Quarry at Wykeham when they meet tomorrow.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage said: “The Wykeham area has a very dense collection of prehistoric monuments.”

It has been working with the county council to ensure a management plan is put in place.

The spokeswoman said the plan, if backed by councillors, would help to ensure that the proposed expansion of the quarry avoids damaging monuments such as burial grounds which experts say could be found on the site.

A number of discussions have been held and a report to be considered by the planning committee said initially English Heritage recommended not backing the application “until a robust strategy for securing archaeological potential of the site has been agreed”.

Following further talks it had since said it is happy with the management plans and recommends it is given the go-ahead.

The site is also thought to be of geological significance with North East Yorkshire Geological Trust highlighting that the land “is of global importance to climate change” in its potential to broaden understanding of rapid changes in climate.

It originally raised concerns but following discussions it says it is also happy with the agreed management plan.

The Grade II listed remains of Manor House, a scheduled ancient monument and the Grade I listed Church of St Martin are near the quarry on the western edge of Seamer.

To the west of the quarry are also the remains of Wykeham Cistercian Priory, the Grade II* listed Wykeham Abbey.

The applicant, Hanson Quarry Products, has operated at Wykeham Quarry since the early 1980s. The quarry produces sand and gravel which is used for ready mixed concrete, as well as supplying large building contractors, local builders merchants and others.

It is proposing two extensions to the existing quarry, which would be immediately to the north and south of the current quarry.

The application proposes the extraction of an additional 4.45 million tonnes over a 20-year period.

Objectors claim the application will harm the appearance of the site and will generate noise and dust and could harm wildlife.

But officers are recommending the proposals are backed, subject to conditions being agreed.

The report says noise can be mitigated with the use of barriers. After work is completed, steps are due to be carried out to restore the site to create natural habitats.

Experts believe the main focus of archaeological activity is an Iron Age and Roman settlement in the southern extension area - but this has been excluded from development.

It is proposed an archaeological interpretation area that could depict the environment of the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer culture is created as part of restoration work.

The plans will also help to safeguard jobs, the quarry operator has said.