by Sandy Gerrard

For over 18 months mystery has surrounded precisely what happened to the stone alignment on Mynydd y Betws. It is beyond doubt that part of it was destroyed during the construction of windfarm access roads but other details have been rather sketchy.

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The original planning permission stated:
“in the event of any previously unidentified or undisclosed archaeological remains being identified during the course of the development the works on the Site which may affect the said remains will cease until a further programme of works in respect of the said remains has been agreed in writing between the local planning authority and the developer and that scheme shall thereafter be implemented.”

This seems fair and may reflect the Inspectors concerns expressed elsewhere that he was not entirely happy with the work that had been conducted to date. After several requests and considerable persistence and ultimately the intervention of the Information Commissioner the written agreement asked for by the Planning Inspector has been released and it makes interesting reading. In the first part of this article selected contents of the e-mail that accompanied the Method Statement are presented below in italics:

“Technically the works are already covered under the previously approved 2010 Dyfed Archaeology WSI, with the subsequent variations supplied by CA in 2010.”
This comment surely contradicts the Planning Inspectors Report which clearly states that development work “WILL CEASE UNTIL A FURTHER PROGRAMME OF WORKS IN RESPECT OF THE SAID REMAINS HAS BEEN AGREED IN WRITING BETWEEN THE LOCAL PLANNING AUTHORITY AND THE DEVELOPER” It is difficult to see how a WSI written in 2010 would meet these very clear instructions. The Inspector has asked for a fresh written agreement and yet for some reason the developer’s archaeologists appeared reluctant to carry this out. It might also be worth pointing out that this was not a request it was actually one of the stipulations he laid down as a condition of planning permission being granted.

“As agreed between all parties yesterday (Dyfed, ESBI & CA) the area where the stone alignment crosses both the main access route & the access track to Turbine 16 will be fenced to restrict any construction groundworks to the 6m wide corridor required for the proposed roadways.  CA will  hand and mechanically strip the road corridor in advance of any construction works to determine the presence/absence of further stones.  Should further stones be present, CA will undertake full archaeological excavation and recording to mitigate their subsequent loss.”
There is no mention of machine stripping in the excavation report but this methodology would certain explain how the alignment was excavated by a couple of people in a couple of days. Machines most definitely have an important role to play in modern excavations, but should they be used so readily in an area of known shallow stratigraphy and potentially incredibly important archaeology? I wonder how many other method statements designed to examine a stone alignment include machine stripping of the row itself as part of the Project Design? So perhaps another ignominious first for Mynydd y Betws!

Parts 2 and 3 will follow shortly.

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