MORE archaeological tests will be conducted before a decision plans to quarry near an earthwork monument.

Councillors have agreed to defer judgement on a planning application by Tarmac Northern to extend Nosterfield Quarry, near Masham, North Yorkshire.

Further studies will be carried out to discover whether the farmland earmarked for quarrying is of national importance to archaeologists.

Protestors have opposed the plans, claiming the extended quarry is a threat to nearby Thornborough Henges, an ancient monument.

Campaigners and quarry workers gathered at Masham town hall yesterday to hear the decision of North Yorkshire County Council's planning committee.

A last-minute request to defer the meeting was made by Tarmac after the quarry firm and English Heritage failed to agree on the importance of the archaeology contained within the site of the proposed extension.

After the meeting, Tarmac estates manager Bob Nicholson said: "The application site is more than half a mile from the nearest henge, and in our view truly poses no threat to the monument.

"Although today's decision means a further period of uncertainty, the deferment will give time to discuss the archaeological aspects with English Heritage in more detail and hopefully reach an informed decision based on additional factual evidence if required."

Campaigners were also reasonably pleased with the outcome.

Dr Mike Hayworth, director of the Council for British Archaeology, said: "We are surprised that the request for a deferral has come so late in the day.

"Nevertheless, as the grounds for the deferral will deal with one of the mayor objections to the current proposal then we are content with this course of action."

The planning committee will meet again to discuss the application in January.