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Buffer zones keep harm to settings at arms length, so removing them is akin to vandalising monuments is it not? If we could catch the little squirt that hung a burning tyre over a Rollright Stone in 2007 we’d give him hell….

[ Image credit: Alan S, Heritage Action ]

[Image credit: Alan S, Heritage Action]

….. so what should we give Eric Pickles who has decided that buffer zones can be ignored? Harm is harm.

The settings of  monuments are integral to their understanding and appreciation and a host of international documents confirm that. Settings need protection through the establishment of buffer zones [Operational Guidelines of the The World Heritage Convention]; legislation, regulation and guidelines*should provide for a protection or buffer zone [ICOMOS Xi’an Declaration]; Buffer zones are an added layer of protection** [UNESCO definition].

*  guidelines, note, Mr Pickles
** an added layer, note, not a layer to be dispensed with.

But Britain, one of the the countries with a claim to have invented heritage protection, takes an eccentric view (like it does with artefact hunting). It’s a long and downhill path from the first Lord Avebury to Eric Pickles. (Not that the decline didn’t start before Eric – see the English Heritage Advisory Committee discussing open cast mining around Thornborough Henges in 2008: “The Committee was informed that a cross Group EH Project Board was looking at the issue of settings. The Board felt that if the policy for the core area was strong enough, there would be no need for a buffer zone.”

Here’s part of a critique and response to the Power of Place document by Chris Cumberpatch that makes it crystal clear why loosening the safeguards is dangerous: “there can be no doubt that in the future those who profit from the destruction…. will seize on these omissions for their own rapacious ends …” That’s it. All you need to know about monument protection: “arms length” and “rapacious ends” – so Eric, why would you want to dispense with buffer zones?

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