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Tourism plan for reprieved Henges

[Tuesday 07 March 2006]

Just two weeks after plans to increase quarrying at a major North Yorkshire archaeological site known as the Stonehenge of the North were rejected; proposals to turn it into a tourist attraction have been unveiled.

Robert Staveley founded the Lightwater Valley theme park and is now looking to encourage visitors to Thornborough Henges near Masham.

Over the past several years the 5,000 year old Neolithic site has been at the centre of a planning controversy as Tarmac Northern applied to extend quarrying operations at its nearby Nosterfield Quarry.

County Councillors rejected the plans after hearing that the Henges are considered to be one of the most important and best preserved prehistoric sites in the country.

The Henges are made up of three linked earthworks that once formed part of a wider ceremonial area and Mr Staveley now wants to recreate the southern-most Henge; allowing visitors a better idea of how the site fits in to the surrounding landscape.

Although still in the early stages of planning the proposals would also see a visitor centre being built, along with a car park.

This is broadly in line with the aims of the group, Friends of Thornborough Henges, which campaigned vigorously against the Tarmac proposals. They also want to see a visitor centre built near the site.

Mr Staveley said: "At the moment, when people come here they are so disappointed because there is so little there."

Tarmac is currently considering an appeal against the County Council's rejection of its quarrying plans and a spokesman added that the company believes there would be no conflict between their operations and increased tourism in the vicinity of Thornborough, saying: "We see no conflict in principle between tourists visiting the Henges and continuation of our quarry at Nosterfield with the useful employment it provides.

"Visitors already come to the Nosterfield Quarry visitor centre and viewing area which opened last year, it is free and is popular with birdwatchers and walkers."

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