Archaeologists have been enraged by recent remarks by Mr Alan Melton, leader of the Fenland District Council,  announcing that archaeological surveys in advance of developments will no longer be necessary in his version of the Governmen’s brave new localism world. Rather than trace the whole sorry story, which has been well aired on many archaeology websites, we thought we would highlight this phrase from blogger Li Dongni:

“It seems that sometimes people can elect leaders who are, quite frankly, barbarians…”

The danger, of course, is that there are other Mr Meltons with other developer pals in other planning authorities with similar pro-development, anti-heritage views and that they will soon be empowered by the government’s Localism Bill to give developers the license to do what up to now they have only dreamed of being able to do. While his specific proposals would be illegal there is little doubt that there has always been a strong wish on the part of many developers to build more, build faster and build without the irritation of current archaeological constraints and it is a wish that is shared in government. “Eric Pickles will be extremely proud of me”. “The bunny huggers won’t like it”. Mr Melton’s words may be intemperate but they betray a pretty ruthless pro-development agenda that extends far beyond the Fens. Is he being quietly cheered on elsewhere?

Here’s a petition against the plans to scrap archaeology in the Fens. Please sign it –   but please also be alert to the fact there may also be a Mr Melton near you – and soon he may have not just the wish but the means!

See also Maev Kennedy in The Guardian.