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by Sandy Gerrard
Recently I voiced my concern that English Heritage may have accidentally scheduled the wrong field. English Heritage has kindly responded, confirming that a mistake has been made:
“in this particular circumstance it does appear that English Heritage made an error regarding the extent of the scheduled area. We accidentally made this a larger area than intended, and thus also covered the area that was subjected to excavation in 2011 within the larger scheduled area. We are now in the process of revising this schedule.”
However, they note that:
“1. The excavations of 2011 strongly suggest that the archaeology present on the (excavated) southern half of the site continues to the north, possibly associated to one or more features visible on air photos. There is a strong presumption of in situ archaeology of national significance remaining to the north, and at real threat – thus worthy of scheduling;
2. In relation to point 1, I would convey the fundamental importance of our ability to respond effectively in cases where real or potential development pressure dictates the use of designation as an effective management tool, para. 139 of the NPPF notwithstanding. Any error in defining the constraint area in the case of Storrey’s Meadow should not be allowed to obscure those initial assessments of archaeological interest and significance which prompted the application for scheduling;
3. The consultation responses for this case did not highlight any concerns about the necessity to exclude this area of the site.
While these points do not excuse our error, and while we are setting up an amendment case to remove the excavated area from the scheduled area, English Heritage stands by the good intent and expertise underlying this schedule.”
It might be worth briefly considering some of these answers. Firstly, however it is should be emphasised that there is no explanation for this fundamental error. It has happened, it has been pointed out to them and now they are going to put it right. This is important stuff – the scheduling description and mapping forms part of a legal document and mistakes will lower or some cases are likely to invalidate protection.
Moving onto the numbered points.
1. The evidence for nationally important archaeology within the northern half of the site is not proven beyond reasonable doubt. The Secretary of State is being asked to schedule an area on the basis of a presumption only – albeit a strong one. The available evidence does not support EH’s stance and more importantly the scheduling documentation is rather vague on what survives within this area. For the scheduling of this area to be effective a clear indication of what is being protected and why it is nationally important needs to be provided or else in the future the decision will almost certainly be challenged.
2. EH have correctly identified that it is fundamentally important to be able to “respond effectively”. Demonstrating national importance and clearly defining the extent of surviving remains are crucial elements of an effective response. Neither appears to have happened here.
3. Essentially this point is saying that nobody else involved with the case spotted the serious error. This suggests that nobody involved in the process checked the details.
The final sentence in the EH response is baffling in the circumstances:
“English Heritage stands by the good intent and expertise underlying this schedule.”
Perhaps someone can explain what this means?
None of the other issues raised in the original article have been addressed by English Heritage and I am still awaiting a response to the scheduling of the C19 gravel pit raised in Scheduling – Part 6.
[For other articles in the series put Scheduling in the search box]