The Government’s recent statement on its proposed sustainable development policy is notable for two things:

First, it contains vacuous twaddle of prize winning quality! For example:

The coalition Government is committed to sustainable development. This means making the necessary decisions now to realise our vision of stimulating economic growth and tackling the deficit, maximising wellbeing and protecting our environment, without negatively impacting on the ability of future generations to do the same. These are difficult times and tough decisions need to be made. This Government believes in going beyond the short term with eyes fixed firmly on a long term horizon shift in relation to our economy, our society and the environment.

Second, although it talks about the very important aims of moving towards a green economy and policies to tackle climate change, protecting the natural environment and promoting fairness and wellbeing, it says not a single solitary word about protection of the historic environment. Instead, it looks like a lot of that sector is going to be left to be cared for by volunteers in the Big Society and if they want any actual money for projects then they should look to “philanthropists”…

DCMS’ initiative to address philanthropy could play an important role in meeting concerns around funding for initiatives in the Big Society

Voluntary action is something we are all going to have to accept as an important part of protecting the historic environment and we have been suggesting various “Big Stone Society” initiatives. But “philanthropists”….?!?  Is it just us who feel very uncomfortable with that idea? Isn’t it likely that the only people that will be willing to dole out large amounts of money to protect parts of the historic environment are those who are aiming to make even more money by destroying other parts of it? Developers and mining companies for instance?

Isn’t there a danger that there’s an intention to create conditions in which the public is to be offered “lose this if you want us to save that” deals by oh so philanthropic commercial interests keen to expand their exploitation of areas from which they are currently excluded? An agenda similar to but better disguised than the recent forest sell-off proposals?

Time will tell, but the one certainty is that a large degree of protection is being withdrawn from the heritage sector. No wonder it says throughout the government website explaining it all: User comments have been disabled on this page