The Curious Incident of the Local Authority Archaeology Website: Response from Sandwell

A few days ago I wrote a blog on the changes to Sandwell MBC’s website and their removal from it of nearly all information relating to archaeology in the area. Yesterday, in several tweets, Sandwell kindly responded. I thought it seemed only fair to incorporate these into an updated blog and provide their side of the story. I’ve added my own additional questions and comments beneath each tweet.

I’m sure you are correct. Then again, it’s an easy deletion to make when you’ve made redundant everyone who could present the case for retention. Continue reading

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The Curious Incident of the Local Authority Archaeology Website in the Night-Time

As some of you may remember in late September 2011 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“. 

I last wrote about Sandwell’s decision in December 2011 after the council, in an astonishing move, deemed Twitlonger an appropriate service to announce that they had cut their archaeologists.

A few months later I had a further discussion on Twitter with the leader of Sandwell MBC Councillor Darren Cooper about the nature of the consultation that occurred prior to the Council’s decision. During this I noticed that there had been some changes on the Sandwell website (read the tweets that led to this part of the conversation: 1, 2 and 3):

Continue reading

Cuts and Consultation: Sandwell Sacks Archaeologists

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 Ombudsmanfor “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

Sandwell: an ill-informed decision

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

Bunnygate Redux

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“.

Continue reading