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Be careful what you wish for!

While we think the Big Society has something to be said for it (when it comes to communal caring for megalithic sites at least), the way in which it works has yet to be determined. We have already proposed that enthusiasts should take on responsibility for regular inspection of every site and we will be suggesting to NT, EH and others a possible way for them to make access to information extend far beyond what they offer on their information boards, by showing people how they could tap into online sources supplied by enthusiastic amateurs.

But there’s more that a “Big Stone Society” might do. Avebury contains the world’s largest stone circle; the surrounding landscape is a World Heritage Site. Yet inexplicably the Northern approach to the henge has just been blighted forever by a new housing development despite the formal objections of all the official and national conservation bodies. If the future asks (and it will, for sure) how could that generation have been so careless, the only excuse it will find in the records will be “well we didn’t like it, we knew it was wrong, but it was legal”.

The sad thing is that it isn’t the only inappropriate or damaging development that has been and will be allowed at Avebury because it’s “legal”. There have been and will be others and cumulatively they will bear witness to our generation gradually and incrementally causing harm to what we ought to be holding in trust for posterity.

So what’s missing? Perhaps a united public voice – the loud opposition of all who love Avebury, near and far, who realise it isn’t just a normal village and it needs to be protected to an extent far beyond what is usual and what the usual law says. So here’s a project for the new “Big Stone Society”, one that the government didn’t envisage when it started talking about “people power”: let all who give a damn unite to oppose any future developments that damage the World Heritage Site by backing up the official bodies whenever they object to developments.

Planning committees can do anything, so long as it’s legal, and it seems that in the case of Avebury they do. Including ignoring the advice of people that know infinitely more about Avebury than they do. Let the interested public put more pressure on them next time and see if they will dare to also ignore the voices of those who evidently love Avebury infinitely more than they do.

If you’d like to make a truly significant contribution to the Big Stone Society and to help defend Avebury’s present and future, then the next time there’s a planning issue please consider making your opinion known to the planning committee (and send copies to the WHS Officer and the Inspector of Ancient Monuments), having first considered the following:

1.      Are the national and official bodies against the proposal, and if so shouldn’t they be heeded?

2.      Will the proposal benefit just one person while damaging the World Heritage Site?

3.      Will it benefit a few people in this generation or everyone in all future ones?

Let 2011 be the year in which the public took a step further than the government envisaged they would and the Big Society took a direct role in defending its biggest assets…

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