British

Archaeology

The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 102

Issue 102

Sept / Oct 2008

Contents

news

Windfarm dig finds boat in style of Sutton Hoo

Prehistoric village under Isle of Man runway

Rare house continues first farmers debate

In the press

In Brief & Phase 2

features

Hadrian in London
The 'Hadrian: Empire and Conflict' exhibiton is impressive

Hadrian's Wall
Abandoned after three centuries, but still alive

New WHS, the Antonine Wall
David J Breeze tells how to make a successful bid to UNESCO

THE BIG DIG: Stonehenge
Mike Pitts sorts out the technical data

additional content
Reading about the Archaeology of Stonehenge

The Stonehenge Olympics
Plans for the stones to get the new facilities ready for 2012

on the web

Recommended websites
Caroline Wickham-Jones explores the realms of archaeological fiction and a look at Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society's website

letters

your views and responses

spoilheap

a piece about Bonekickers with no archaeological puns!

science

Seeking what is best for buried bones, Sebastian Payne looks at new leglislation

CBA correspondent

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA
Gill Chitty on the stones, the bill and beyond

 

ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

CBA correspondent

Gill Chitty on the stones, the bill and beyond

The CBA makes representations to the government and others on dozens of national consultations every year. We are advised by our trustees and working groups, and actively seek the views of other organisations with common interests, through umbrella bodies such as the Archaeology Forum and Heritage Link. We very much encourage members and others to share their views with us, so that our position reflects as broad a constituency as possible. Over the summer the CBA has been considering two significant but very different consultations on topics that have dominated conservation over the last 10 years.

Ravenscar, N York

The latest consultation on options for Stonehenge is described elsewhere in this issue. The CBA welcomed the government's decision not to fund a tunnel through the world heritage site, as an opportunity to rethink solutions. The 2012 Olympics is a short-term goal. The new facilities must respect the landscape and setting of Stonehenge, and meet visitor needs. Like others, such as the National Trust and the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, we would like to see a light touch in both this and longer-term planning for any major new infrastructure.

The CBA has guiding principles for assessing proposals at Stonehenge. The creation of new facilities and the removal of existing infrastructure should achieve:

  • minimum damage to archaeological remains;
  • minimum impact on previously undeveloped landscape;
  • minimum visual intrusion on monuments and landscape;
  • maximum tranquillity;
  • maximum reversibility and
  • efficient use of previously-developed areas.
The Shambles, York

These criteria were first developed in 1998. They remain sound, but we want to re-examine them as we look at the new options that English Heritage is presenting. The CBA has argued strongly for the closure of the A303 junction and grassing over the A344, and it is encouraging to see at least part of this on offer. But is the scale of new building and parking proportionate to the visitors' needs? What impact will the location of the new facility have on landscape qualities: on tranquillity, the visual setting of Stonehenge and other sites, on the "Outstanding Universal Value" of the world heritage site as a whole, and not least on the buried archaeology? The Olympics provide a deadline for resolving problems which all agree should be addressed, but not at any price. Trustees of the CBA and CBA Wessex are considering the issues carefully, and will value the opinions and views of members (see feature for a summary of the options, how to find out more and how to comment).

Like the proposals for Stonehenge, the draft heritage protection bill is the fruit of lengthy and wide debate. It has also required a major consultation this summer on the reform of protection for the historic environment. While the draft bill is only one part of copious new guidance and regulations, it is the key legislation for change. It replaces four existing acts of parliament. At nearly 200 pages of dry, and at times impenetrable, legal language, it does not present a compelling read. So here are some highlights.

The new system of protection will be much simpler. There will be one "register" for England and another for Wales that lists all the buildings, sites, parks, gardens and battlefields, world heritage sites – and in Wales, landscapes – that were formerly listed, scheduled or registered. The bill's new language is still unfamiliar and rather awkward. All protected buildings and archaeological sites, for example, will be known as "registered heritage structures" (including sites without structural remains that may be designated for the first time!). Parks, gardens, battlefields and Welsh registered landscapes will be "registered heritage open spaces". Some of this may change in the course of redrafting and the parliamentary process. "Heritage assets" seems likely to stay as the overall new name for elements of the historic environment.

The new unified registers for England and Wales (which may be renamed "the list", does that sound familiar?) will be available online, part of creating a much more open and accessible system of protection. This includes moving responsibility for all designation in England – the process of giving statutory protection to a site or building – from the Secretary of State to English Heritage. Responsibility for granting consent for works that affect all protected sites and buildings will lie with local authorities (currently they only deal with listed building consent). In Wales, the situation remains pretty much unchanged, however, with Welsh ministers retaining their powers for designation and, for the time being, for granting consents.

There is new protection for "marine heritage assets" – sites in English and Welsh waters out to 12 nautical miles. In both countries the government will retain direct control over decisions about what is protected by law. In England, licensing of activities affecting marine sites will devolve to English Heritage.

Watertower, Swindon
Conservation area status for "special archaeological interest" may have a new role to play in historic locations.

Overall there will be a much wider process of consultation, with rights of appeal or review, through the whole process of designation. The changes aim to demystify and open up a system that has been seen by some as closed and even secretive. English Heritage will be starting the process of public consultation on their thematic programme for new designations later this year.

"Special interest" is a term we already know in connection with listed buildings. Under the bill's proposals, "special historic, archaeological, architectural or artistic interest" will form the basis for selection for statutory protection. Uniform selection criteria (with detailed guides) will apply to all elements in the historic environment. This approach will better reflect modern ideas of a historic environment, in which everything is inter-related. Again, this is an admirable simplification, but one that will need to accommodate the diverse complexities of the old system. Other welcome changes include the new duty for local authorities to maintain historic environment records (draft guidance recently published) and the extension of "special archaeological interest" to conservation areas.

Archaeological and heritage groups have welcomed the changes, mostly with enthusiasm – while highlighting the money and skills local authorities need to implement them. There are no big surprises. The reforms were trailed in the white paper last year, and have been discussed since 2000. The Department for Culture Media and Sport has championed them as "supporting sustainable communities by putting the historic environment at the heart of an effective planning system". Beyond this round of consultations, then, we look forward to dialogue later this year on new planning policy statements for the historic environment. These will replace PPG15 and 16 and the Welsh circulars and, we hope, affirm the central role of the historic environment and the new protection regime in the planning system for England and Wales.

See www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/culture__media_and_sport.cfm for the culture media and sport select committee report on heritage, the draft bill and related documents. The bill is expected to be in the Queen's speech in December, and to be considered by parliament in the 2008–09 session. The CBA's response and evidence are at www.britarch.ac.uk/conserve/consult.html. Gill Chitty is the CBA's head of conservation.

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