Dear Ms Raikes,
The Chancellor has just said he wants more cuts, up to 40%, so you’ll know you’ve been handed the reins not just of a smaller PAS but a very much smaller one. I have some grass roots thoughts on that fact. The thing is, you may not have heard of me but actually I’m quite central to everything you’ll be doing – for although I’m only notional I’m pretty average – an octogenarian Salopian landowner, part of an army of ordinary people who stand like gatekeepers and guardians at the entrance to every one of the hundreds of thousands of fields containing Britain’s buried archaeological resource. You’ve just been tasked with pleading with artefact hunters to behave well while detecting whereas we on the other hand already have the absolute power to decide whether they detect at all – and, most importantly, in what manner. So my simple suggestion is that you talk to all of us – first, second and third.
PAS didn’t. They outreached almost exclusively to detectorists and hardly at all to us. You know the result and I suggest it would have been very different if PAS had targeted landowners far more. May I suggest you spend some time on some farming forums and then on some detecting ones (especially the hidden sections). I promise you’ll find farmers refreshingly receptive to your message in a way that most detectorists demonstrably haven’t been. I should hasten to add, before you or your advisers do, that yes, some detectorists are fine people who act in the national interest and are a credit to archaeology – but they are not the majority are they and they aren’t the problem PAS was set up to address.
It’s a quite unacceptable fact that after 18 years of PAS outreach neither the NCMD nor FID nor 99.5% of detecting clubs require members to report a single non-Treasure item to PAS or to abide by the official Responsibility Code or Best Practice. Indeed, they insist only on compliance with their own, trickily worded and entirely inadequate codes which landowners are told indicate “responsibility”. PAS has never explained the difference to landowners and indeed their interaction with landowners is so weak that the largest rally company is able to have a rule that finds worth up to an eye-watering £2,000 don’t even have to be shared with the owner, something which is very likely to encourage non-disclosure to farmers or yourselves and laundering by findspot falsification. I submit that if PAS would explain the moral and practical importance of best practice to landowners (despite extreme pressure from NCMD and others to minimise that message), many of them would insist upon anyone detecting on their fields complying.
So my suggestion for “reduced PAS” is rather simple. Ask every Finds Liaison Officer to spend the next three months outreaching to landowners. We farmers have known since the dawn of time that fertile fields are more productive than stony ground and it’s surely time for PAS to acknowledge that they know it too.
Grunters Hollow Farm