Further news on the decision of Sandwell MBC to sack all their archaeologists. The Institute for Archaeologists has released a statement contradicting the council view that archaeology is “not core…to the planning service”:
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council appears to consider that it does not require specialist archaeological advice. IfA has written to explain a planning authority’s responsibilities under PPS5 (and the draft National Planning Policy Framework) and to point out the risks of Judicial Review or investigation by the Local Authority Ombudsman of ill-informed decision-making about the historic environment. This is another example where an authority appears unaware of its responsibilities…
With significant developments in Sandwell planned (such as the £30 million Junction and a £15 million casino) one can only hope the council reconsiders, rather than risk tying itself up in judicial reviews and risking a significant loss of it’s peoples heritage.
Written by +Matt Nicholas
In late June the archaeological world was thrown into turmoil by proposals to remove the requirement for archaeological investigations in Fenland. After much protest (for a full summary of the affair see here) the proposals appear to have been quietly shelved, allowing anyone in the UK who cares about heritage to relax.
Or not, as it would turn out.
In the shadow of the National Policy Planning Framework, Sandwell Municipal Borough Council have decided to sack their Borough Archaeologist and the Historic Environment Records (HER) Officer. These two people were, in the words of Black Country Core Stratergy, crucial in sustaining and reinforcing the “special character [of the] historic aspects of the following locally distinctive elements of the Black Country” (info via BAJR).
Despite adopting this as official Sandwell policy in February – a policy which Sandwell see as setting out the vision, objectives and strategy for future development in the area up to 2026 – the council have suddenly decided that the very people who undertake key parts of it are “not core services to the planning service and could almost be considered to be a luxury“.