RESCUE Says: Government response to “Stop Destruction of British Archaeology. Neighbourhood and Infrastructure Bill”

The Government has answered the concerns of the archaeological community that were expressed in the signing of a petition against the suggestion of a reduction in archaeological and heritage planning protection commitments outlined in the recent Queen’s Speech.

Reacting to the petition and its 17,700+ signatures, the Government has indicated that it

“actively supports the use of planning conditions where necessary to protect the wider social, cultural and environmental benefits that conservation of the historic environment can bring.”

tinyurl.com/hgunwjq

Previous Governments have made similar commitments to heritage protection and the cultural importance of the historic environment.

The Salford Star has yesterday (16 June 2016) reported “At the start of the redevelopment of Chapel Street a few years ago, the then Salford MP, Hazel Blears, was photographed by the pub stating “Alongside the vital demolition work necessary to make the area safe, historic buildings and public spaces such as Ye Olde Nelson and Bexley Square will be revitalized and brought back into active use.”

“Today bulldozers moved onto the site and began dismantling surrounding walls, with the whole building expected to be rubble by Monday.” | tinyurl.com/jatsmf8

The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) and the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) recently met with Government officials, to express their joint concerns about both the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill, and the recent Housing Act, which has introduced some worrying commitments to brownfield development and permission in principle, without recognition of any archaeological damage this might cause. Following that meeting, the three bodies issued a statement outlining their belief that:

“the planning system is no longer working in the interests of archaeology, and that current reforms are – whether intentionally or not – contributing to a weaker and poorer set of protections for the historic environment, which in turn is leading to unsustainable development – achieved at too high an environmental cost.” | tinyurl.com/jtkyygd

RESCUE agrees with this statement (tinyurl.com/hb7nw9w) and notes that the example of the Ye Olde Nelson is not an isolated one. The reality of destruction of previously-protected heritage sites on the ground, the dismantling of hard-fought policy protection measures in legislature, and the ongoing losses of key archaeology and heritage advisory staff across the country, indicate that what the Government says is not supported by what the Government actually does.

We would urge our members, and members of the wider archaeological community, to join us in rejecting the Government’s hollow statement of reassurance and to continue to campaign for the protection and support that our historic environment so desperately needs.

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