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By Dr Sandy Gerrard.

On the 2nd January 2012 we were invited by friends to have a look at an area that was about to be destroyed by wind farm construction works. The wind farm was to occupy Mynydd y Betws and the part we chose to look at was around Bancbryn.

A few years earlier despite protestations from Cadw and Dyfed Archaeological Trust (DAT) permission had been granted by the Welsh Assembly Government for a wind farm to be erected subject to a whole raft of conditions. Amongst these were a couple of archaeological ones which sought to ensure that the archaeology was properly recorded prior to destruction. In 2011 a programme of work was carried out by Cotswold Archaeology who reported that very little had been found. With the green light in place construction work started towards the end of 2011 and it was then that we were approached by friends who were concerned that various planning conditions were being flouted.

The visit on 2nd January rapidly revealed that there were archaeological remains within the area that was scheduled for destruction. Traces of archaeological trenches were visible in places but these appeared to have missed the surviving remains. The local archaeological trust (DAT) were informed of our discoveries and eventually agreed to meet on the mountain on 16th January.  The DAT officer agreed that the remains were of potential significance and asked the developers to stop work in their vicinity until they had been investigated.

In the meantime a request to schedule one of the sites was submitted to Cadw together with a question. Why had no attempt been made to look for and record the archaeology within the development footprint?

From this point onwards the archaeological organisations involved set about protecting their positions and in doing so exposed series flaws in the way that archaeology is conducted in Wales. Freedom of Information requests have revealed the highly questionable ways in which the various organisations sought to minimise the political fallout and the considerable lengths that they were willing to go to try and protect their vested interests.

Amongst the techniques used were: ignoring evidence; failing to substantiate claims; not publishing the excavation report, refusing to engage with many of the issues; conducting a biased scheduling assessment and attempting to withhold information.  Perhaps most telling however was the role played by DAT who were simultaneously providing planning advice to the local authority whilst working on behalf of the developer. Where else within the planning system is a private company (DAT) able to act simultaneously on behalf of both the developer and the planning authority?

Running through the whole sorry saga however is a seam of complete incompetence.  Fundamental mistakes were made at every turn – contradictions, inconsistencies, inaccuracies and contempt for public concerns are all apparent.  During the coming months the evidence to support these and other claims will be presented.

Of course if any of the organisations involved would like to comment we would be happy to publish their responses in full (The Heritage Journal).

bancbryn Walking along the Bancbryn stone alignment. Whatever its date, its discovery has certainly highlighted fundamental flaws with the heritage protection process in Wales.


January 2015

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