In late September news broke that Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council was planning on sacking it’s Borough archaeologist after it declared that archaeology and heritage were “not core services to the planning service and could almost be considered to be a luxury“.
This was met with dismay by the archaeological community; Rescue (the British Archaeological Trust) described the proposal as “wholly and conclusively both misguided and incorrect” and the Institute for Archaeologists pointed out that Sandwell risked a “Judicial Review or investigation by the Local Authority Ombudsman” for “ill-informed decision-making about the historic environment”.
Sandwell Council seemed to operating a policy of radio silence on the matter. Then, one day Council Leader Darren Cooper retweeted a message about a heritage trail in the area. Pleased to see that the MBC leader appeared to view local heritage as important I tweeted a question at him, to which I received the following response: Continue reading
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“.