ISSN 1357-4442Editor: Simon Denison

Issue no 55, October 2000


Campaigns and reports from the CBA

New pressure to protect peat

Some archaeological remains may gain new protection following the Government's designation of 81 new Special Areas of Conservation, introduced under European legislation last month (writes Alex Hunt).

The designation of these areas as SACs will require the local planning authority to review existing permissions, such as those for peat extraction at Thorne and Hatfield Moors in South Yorkshire which date back to the 1950s (BA October 1998, July 1999). These permissions may well be revoked, bringing to an end the unsustainable and destructive extraction of peat in these areas.

The Peatlands Campaign Consortium, of which the CBA is a member, has called on The Scotts Company, which owns Thorne and Hatfield Moors, to cease peat extraction immediately. The CBA is now working with its wildlife partners in discussions with the commercial sector about phasing out peat extraction and helping the horticultural industry move away from environmentally damaging peat-based products to other more sustainable growing media.

The CBA has been pressing for better protection of ancient environmental and ecological evidence through the Historic Environment Review in England. Deposits that reflect the environmental impact of human society since the last Ice Age currently receive inadequate protection, falling outside the statutory remit of the historic environment conservation agencies, and largely outside the criteria used by the wildlife agencies.

In a new five-yearly review of the Joint Nature Conservation Council the CBA will be pressing for a revision of criteria used to designate geological SSSIs, to improve protection of holocene stratification, deposits and other evidence of environmental and cultural change.

Quarrying and archaeology

Quarrying represents one of the biggest threats to archaeology, accounting for 12 per cent of archaeological sites completely lost since World War II - second only to property development and urban expansion which accounts for 27 per cent (writes George Lambrick). This summer, draft mineral planning guidance (MPG11) was issued which attempts to provide an overview of quarrying's environmental effects.

The CBA objected strongly to how the draft misrepresented the principles set out in PPG15 and PPG16 (Government guidance on historic buildings and archaeology) and failed to reflect the current standards of best practice within local authorities and the minerals industry. The CBA also objected strongly to the suggestion that only a limited number of environmental effects could be regarded as `main impacts'. Rather, any of the environmental issues to be covered in an Environmental Impact Assessment, including archaeology, could be of sufficient concern to make mineral operations inappropriate.

The draft MPG was followed swiftly by the Treasury's ideas for the proceeds of the proposed minerals tax, the `sustainability fund' (BA June). Its proposals, however, do not recognize the historic environment at all; nor did the report of the select committee which looked into this and other `green' taxes.

In its submission to the Treasury, the CBA highlighted various ways of using some of the estimated £300 million proceeds of the sustainability fund on projects related to the historic environment that would make the industry more sustainable and provide real benefits to the local communities that it affects.

CBA responds to Historic Environment Review

The CBA, with many of its member organizations, has responded to the main consultation of the Historic Environment Review in England (writes George Lambrick). We recommended, among other things, that policies relating to the historic environment should recognise that:

The full text of the CBA's submission, along with several others, can be found online at The CBA continues to be involved with the Historic Environment Review through its membership of several working parties and the overall steering committee.

Environment Agency forgets about Britain's history

A number of aspects of water and contaminated land management can have profound effects on the historic environment and yet fall outside planning control (writes George Lambrick). These include the way we get our water and dispose of sewage, keeping rivers navigable, and maintaining coastal flood defences.

They are the responsibility of the water utilities and the Environment Agency. The EA sometimes sponsors good archaeological work such as its support for the Thames Foreshore project in London. However, the historic environment did not get a single mention in the EA's two recent consultation documents about its environmental strategy.

This is especially worrying in the light of the damage done by the EA to scheduled 18th century lead mine buildings at Rookhope in Weardale last year (BA February), and the fact that the Agency does not employ archaeologists as part of its team of professional advisors.

The CBA's detailed representations to the Government concerning the need to build protection and precautionary risk management procedures for the historic environment into the Contaminated Ground Regulations have gone largely unheeded (BA February, August), so the management of such risks will rely heavily on how well the EA applies its general statutory responsibilities and the industry's code of practice.

So far the low - not to say invisible - profile of the historic environment in the EA's consultation about its environmental strategy is not encouraging.

Compiled by George Lambrick and Alex Hunt

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