Yesterday the Queen outlined the Coalition’s legislative agenda for the new (and final) session of this parliament. One of the bills announced was the Infrastructure Bill. In the run up to the speech it received attention for the new rules it will introduce on fracking (changing trespass laws to allow companies to drill under peoples homes and land without the landowners permission).
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
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.