by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Where heritage and development collide - the odds are stacked against the archaeology

Where heritage and development collide – the odds are stacked against the archaeology

At Bancbryn the archaeological establishment set about trashing the idea that the alignment of stones separating two scheduled cairn cemeteries could be important. Before waiting to see any evidence, the possibility of it being significant was being privately and publically dismissed. Over the months that followed its discovery, various outlandish alternative interpretations backed by spurious “facts” were offered and then silently withdrawn. Important files were shredded, correspondence ignored, evidence avoided and reports buried. Interestingly the various organisations do not apparently see that any of this represents a problem.

Presumably, this is because this is simply business as usual. This whole mess helpfully provides an insight into the way Welsh heritage is regularly carved up by those entrusted with its care. No matter what camouflage is deployed; these organisations are primarily concerned with enabling the controlled destruction of the historic environment. Over the years they have cleverly created the illusion that they are in the protection and conservation game – however the facts at Bancbryn and elsewhere in Wales betray their true role. Cleverly worded reports and excuses are their stock in trade – all designed to ensure the controlled and unimpeded destruction of our archaeology. After all if the “expert” at Cadw says something is not really that important, then surely it must be true? Well no. The Cadw “expert” is very unlikely to have the necessary expertise to assess its importance properly, but on the other hand they are extremely likely to have the prowess to write the sort of report suited to the desired outcome. By these means archaeological sites are regularly sacrificed on the altar of progress and economic development.

To avoid any uncertainty or confusion, Cadw are part of the Welsh Assembly Government and are entrusted with the role of ensuring that the government’s development initiatives are not jeopardised by inconvenient archaeological remains. Cadw’s position within the Welsh Assembly severely limits their abilities to be the honest broker and instead their role is often to ensure the smooth and orderly destruction of the historic environment. To do anything else would be a risky strategy indeed. With all this in mind the Bancbryn debacle sadly makes complete sense and was inevitable.