The inhabitants of Britain's longest-running environmental protest camp have faced more than their share of setbacks in the eight years they have been living, amid birch woodlands and open heather, in the Peak District. At least three of them have died there – one in a fire, another in a river and a third after falling over a cliff edge. But yesterday the protesters, who built 20 tree houses and a labyrinth of underground tunnels to fend off eviction, were celebrating after winning their fight to prevent quarrying in a precious wildlife area near a Bronze Age stone circle which has stood for 4,000 years.
Four years ago, an eviction order was served on the camp at Stanton Moor in Derbyshire after the quarrying group Stancliffe Stone declared its intention to cash in on old mining rights and extract 3.2 million tonnes of some of the most sought-after sandstone in Britain. But the activists joined forces with officials at the Peak District National Park to see off the threat. Under a deal approved yesterday by Hazel Blears, the Local Government secretary, the firm's planning permission at Stanton Moor is to be revoked in exchange for the right to quarry in an area which is less environmentally sensitive.
Graham Jenkins, one of the longest-serving activists still in the camp, was rueful yesterday as he surveyed the tarpaulin bivouac which has been his home for six years. "There are almost mixed feelings, now we know the end is here, because this place has become our home," he said. "But it proves that, if you stick at it, you can preserve an exquisite place like this from the desecration which was proposed."
The seeds of the battle were sown in the 1940s, before Britain's national parks were set up. Stancliffe was granted a 90-year permission to quarry at Stanton Lees, between Matlock and Bakewell, 200 yards from the spot where pagans worship at a Bronze Age stone circle called Nine Ladies. When it seemed that the Endcliffe and Lees Cross quarries, all but abandoned since the 1960s, would become active again, many veterans of the 1990s anti-road campaigns arrived to establish a new 32-acre camp which would soon have its own postcode. They were welcomed by locals, who provided food, building materials and cash. When Stancliffe was taken over in 2001, its new parent company raised the volume of sandstone it proposed to extract and began a court battle in an attempt to prove the quarry was not "dormant". The company lost but it was not until 2005, following a failed appeal, that it decided not to pursue its case. Instead, it began negotiating to swap its quarrying rights at Stanton Lees for an extension of rights at the nearby Dale View quarry. A coalition of groups, including the Council for the Protection of Rural England, was involved in talks to reduce the extra quarrying at Dale View by 20 per cent. Ms Blears' agreement to this means it does not require a public inquiry and the battle of Stanton Lees has in effect come to a close. But the CPRE has concerns for thousands of acres of land under similar threat from old quarrying agreements. In a report in 2004, it said 33 "dormant" permissions were "ticking time-bombs".
The battle for Stanton Moor
Stancliffe Stone granted permission to mine at quarries on Stanton Moor, in the Peak District, for 90 years. Area has been mined for its gritstone, used in the building trade, since the 19th century.
Work at Lees Cross and Endcliffe quarries at Stanton effectively ceases.
Amid fears the quarries may be reopened, threatening Stanton habitats and Nine Ladies Stone Circle which contributes to the Moor's designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, eco-camp is set up.
Quarrying firm Marshalls buys Stancliffe.
Pagans arrive for "protection ceremony" at eco-camp to forestall quarry industry work on site
Stancliffe declares intent to extract 3.2 million tonnes from Stanton, insisting the quarries are "active".
Peak Distict National Park declares quarries to be "dormant", which means Stancliffe can only mine them under modern working conditions. Stancliffe defeated in High Court.
After defeat at Court of Appeal, Stancliffe enters talks over quarry "swap".
National Park approves quarry swap deal.
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears agrees to highly unusual swap deal, which in effect saves Stanton Moor.
Anticipated disbandment of the eco-camp.Reuse content