Fenland Furore

Fenland District Council Leader’s keynote speech rouses archaeological anger and discredits ‘new localism’.

Press reports of Fenland Council Leader, Alan Melton’s keynote speech have roused anger and disbelief in the archaeological community, as he announced that regulations governing new developments including the need for archaeological surveys are to be swept aside from July 1 in a purge designed to get Fenland building again. The full text of Cllr Melton’s speech also includes an undertaking that the Council would also ‘relax conservation rules, particularly around sustainability and listed buildings’.

The CBA with other Archaeology Forum members reacted quickly and issued a statement to refute the idea that national planning policy can simply be set aside in this way. However, this example of unilateral policy-making on the hoof foregrounds a much more serious prospect: an era of local business-led, planning that may find it too much to resist the temptation of setting aside inconvenient truths about the impact of development on the historic and natural environment. This controversy, whatever the reality turns out to be when Fenland DC finally issues its draft Core Strategy, will certainly colour the debate as the Localism Bill reaches Committee Stage in the House of Lords.