UNESCO’s damning report on UK World Heritage Sites
The United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, has heavily criticised the UK Government, for failing in its duty to conserve parts of the country’s globally significant heritage and for a lack of clarity when assessing the conflicts between conservation and development. It has demanded urgent steps to remedy the situation.
Ministers were told that 7 world heritage sites in Britain (out of a total of 27) are in danger from building developments. In some cases the UK is ignoring its legal obligations to protect them. Although UNESCO does not have any power to ‘punish’ the UK, the possibility of having sites officially described as ‘in danger’ could be hugely embarrassing for the Government. It could also have economic repercussions for a tourism industry already suffering badly in the current economic downturn.
WHS status for the Antonine Wall
The Antonine Wall is the UK’s latest nomination for World Heritage Site status. It has been nominated as an extension to the trans-national Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site which includes Hadrian’s Wall and the Upper German Raetian Limes, designated in 2005. It is part of a programme aiming to have the remains of the frontiers of the whole of the Roman Empire, in Britain, Germany, the rest of Europe, the Mediterranean region of North Africa and the Middle East, all designated as WHS.
Planning Permission for Ladybridge Quarry by George Chaplin
For more than four years, a valiant campaign held at bay the threat of further quarrying within the Thornborough Henges monument complex. Quarrying applications were withdrawn, modified and rejected, modified and accepted, then revoked when that council planning rules were not followed.
On August 24th 2008 a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council Planning Committee granted planning permission to Tarmac Northern Ltd to quarry Ladybridge. The Friends of Thornborough will be attempting to raise the funds to mount a legal challenge against the decision.
The future of the IFA by Kathryn Whittington, Publicity Administrator, IFA
After 25 years the IFA is attempting to change in the way it perceives itself and the way it presents itself to others, in the current, more integrated, professional environment. A number of reforms to make The Institute better able to represent the needs and vision of existing and potential membership across a converging historic environment sector, were presented to their AGM on October 15th when members agreed to these changes to reflect the Institute’s broad role in archaeology and historic environment conservation
Stonehenge Visitor Centre; sprint to Olympic deadline by Kate Fielden, representing RESCUE and Wiltshire CPRE in the Stonehenge Alliance
A 3-month consultation on the future of Stonehenge was launched in Amesbury on 15 July. The consultation, in two parts, sought views on a revised Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS) Management Plan and also the proposed sites for a new or improved visitor centre. The aim being to improve visitor facilities in time for the influx of visitors anticipated as a result of the 2012 Olympics. The suggestions however are not as straight forward as they appear in the consultation document.
Linking of improvements at Stonehenge to the Olympics in 2012 should be a catalyst only, rather than a condition for progress. Further information is needed on the availability and feasibility of suitable sites and variants, and we hope that RESCUE, along with others, will be included in discussions. This encouraging initiative ought not to be marred by rushed decision-making.
Excavation affected by war in Georgia
The outbreak of war in Georgia deeply affected the Anglo-Georgian Expedition to Nokalakevi (AGEN); a historic fortified site in rural Mingrelia, near the city of Senaki, co-directed since 2002 by RESCUE Council member Dr Paul Everill of the University of Winchester (see www.nokalakevi.org for more details). The 2008 expedition included 10 students from universities across the UK and 7 experienced archaeological and specialist staff. Fortunately, all of the team returned to the UK before the conflict broke out, but they fear for the safety of their Georgian colleagues.
Heritage Protection Bill CMS Select Committee
Following a pre-legislative scrutiny period the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee published their report on 30 July 2008. The recommendations are summarised and include a number of reservations presented to the Select Committee by Heritage organisations including RESCUE which appear to have been taken on board.
The Draft Marine Bill and ‘Marine’ Archaeology by Joe Flatman, University College London
The coincidence of this and the HPR Bill offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to manage marine heritage assets in a really ‘joined up’ way, but this is at serious risk of being missed. The lessons learnt so painfully in the terrestrial zone during the 1970’s, 1980s and 1990s need to be thoughtfully applied to marine zone heritage through the progress of the Heritage and Marine Bills.
The Draft Marine Bill itself does not at any point specifically mention issues of interest to the heritage community and also fails to allow for the extent of, and complexity of managing, marine heritage assets. There are also numerous aspects of the ‘marine’ sections of both Bills that confuse and/or contradict one another.
Under the current terms of these Bills there is a likelihood that the vague terms of each will lead to serious conflicts in marine heritage asset site management in the near future. Neither Bill pays sufficient attention to the major changes offered by the other.
The Brunel Pumping House saga or how to get a building listed
by Pruw Boswell-Harper Heritage Champion for Totnes Town Council
The experience of Councillor Boswell-Harper in attempting to get the Brunel Pumping Station listed, and the eventual outcome of the campaign, show many things, amongst which is, the author’s opinion that English Heritage should rethink its methodology and practices for the Listing of important buildings. Secondly, and just as important, ‘people power’ and the power of modern internet connections must never be underestimated. If you have a building that you think is important to your community don’t give up at the first hurdle. A positive ending is well worth fighting for!
Low pay crisis in British archaeology Museum staff strike by Jez Taylor, MoLAS, Senior Archaeologist, IFA Council/IFA Diggers’ Forum and Antony Francis, MoLAS Senior Archaeologist and Chair of MoL branch, Prospect
On 9th of June, the Museum of London Archaeology Service (MoLAS) took strike action for the first time in its history. Members of the Prospect Union at the Museum were protesting about a 2% pay award; less than half the rate of inflation; and 13 months late.
Ironically, executive management at the Museum had the money to pay more, and wanted to do so, but were prevented by the government’s public sector pay policy, which has compounded past low pay settlements. Strike action was not undertaken lightly; the staff are committed to making the Museum a world-class institution at the forefront of understanding London’s past; but the strike was very well supported.
The Museum’s Governors, representing the Corporation of London and the Greater London Authority, have apparently also decided that ‘archaeological trading’ presents a risk to the Museum and that MOLAS should become ‘an independent business…outside the direct management control of the museum’. The Governors are therefore seeking a ‘third party investor’, presumably to take control of the organisation and to provide it with additional or alternative external funding.
A few days after the MoL strike, there was a strike at the Science Museum in London, York’s National Railway Museum and the National Media Museum in Bradford. In July, it was the turn of the British Museum and the National Gallery to strike.
A recent IFA report by Frank Price, Frank Price Consultancy Ltd. and Kate Geary, IFA, April 2008 http://www.archaeologists.net/modules/icontent/inPages/docs/Benchmarking%20report.doc
‘in order to raise IFA minimum salary recommendations to a level more appropriate to the work complexity and the qualifications, skills and experience required by professional archaeologists, an increase of at least 13% would be required.’
Don’t mess with me, I’m an archaeologist! by Mark Horton, Reader in Archaeology Dept of Archaeology and Anthropology University of Bristol
Over the summer, viewers on BBC1 had the treat of a major drama series based around a fictional archaeology department in the ‘University of Wessex’. Bonekickers divided viewers and critics alike. Some thought its utter tosh, while for others, the series took hokum to new levels, but also showed a grit and reality to archaeology that rarely emerges in serious documentaries. As the series’ advisor Mark Horton explains his experience of working with the writers, actors and production team, and sets out what they were actually trying to achieve.
Royal Armories Museum loses staff
The recent round of job redundancies at the museum leaves the museum without any in-house expertise for the technological investigation of historic and archaeological artifacts and materials. The Science Lab, though modest in scale has helped to provide an insight to the technology, materials and manufacture of historic weapons and protective armour which is virtually unique. It’s effectiveness was built on close links with colleagues in conservation and curatorial departments. The output in terms of gains in our knowledge of the collection has been considerable and the reasons for its closure remain far from clear.
English Heritage Chairman dies
Lord Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of English Heritage, former head of the Local Government Association, who was Conservative leader of Kent County Council from 1997 until he retired in 2005, died in hospital in August aged 66 after a long illness. Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: ‘In his year with English Heritage, Sandy made a great contribution to our work.’
New Interim Chairman appointed
Following the death of Lord Bruce-Lockhart (above), Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe has been appointed as the interim-chair of English Heritage.