In her book Curated Decay Professor Caitlin DeSilvey has suggested that despite people’s “strong feelings” some perishing landmarks should be allowed to crumble because of climate change and falling budgets. It’s hard to disagree, especially in the case of coastal heritage sites where rising sea levels and shrinking finance have become the norm. But as she says: “It’s hard to let go and I am asking how we can do this gracefully and attentively.

On the other hand she qualifies this  approach by saying: “This approach only applies in certain circumstances – when preservation or repair is not possible or realistic due to cost or other issues.” That has to be right, but it’s a concept that is being extended too far. Phil Dyke, coast and marine adviser for the National Trust, is quoted as saying “Good conservation is about the careful management of change” which no doubt reflects the definition of conservation as morphed by the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework: “Conservation is the process of maintaining and managing change to a heritage asset”. Under that, change need no longer be resisted, it can be  “managed” in a reactive way and also maintained in an almost proactive way. In our view that provides far too much of a carte blanche for the forces of change and provides a means to circumvent the whole concept of conservation.

And it’s happening. We can’t hold the sea back and we can’t spend an infinite amount of money on protecting a single asset yet the Stonehenge landscape is miles from the coast and it is being falsely maintained that the fifth largest economy in the world can’t afford to build a tunnel long enough to avoid massive new damage to it. It’s not true, it’s a choice not a necessity.

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