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This article from The Independent – November 2008 underlines just how environmentally vulnerable landscapes get destroyed when American ‘tycoons’ spy big pickings to be had in their never ending need for more coppers, or in this case dollars, to fill their bank accounts!  Just a few choice quotes from Golf Madness is Killing the Countryside by Terence Blacker.

“For all the hot air about energy, the Scottish Government has encouraged a development which will depend upon rich businessman flying from around the world to enjoy Trumpland,

For all the talk of sensible investment, it has granted planning permission for 500 “luxury homes” at the precise moment when the market for such properties has collapsed. The market for such homes in London, for example, reached a 32-year low last month.

For all the commitment to social benefits, it is to allow the rape of a much-loved, environmentally valuable landscape in order to provide facilities for one of the most exclusive and class-ridden sports in the world.

For all the warm words about local activism, it has ridden roughshod over the will of the local council. Those who have dared to speak against the development have been subjected to pressure, harassment and bullying.

There will be jobs, particularly in the short term while the development is being built, but it is ludicrous to argue that Scottish tourism will benefit. The majority of people do not visit the country in order to see a string of dreary, identical, environmentally dead golf courses, but to enjoy one of the most interesting and beautiful landscapes in Europe.

But in the end it has been another triumph for developers, another part of unspoilt countryside lost forever.

A thousand new golf courses are built around the world and most of them look – are designed to look – remarkably similar to one another.

By contrast, the scenery, wildlife habitat and ecosystems that are about to be destroyed are increasingly rare and under pressure.

Trumpland, and the many golf courses of Aberdeenshire will, according to Rita Stephen, “secure our long-term vision”. But what a sad, sterile, money-led vision that is.”


Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust –

My hero is always John Betjemen who opened my eyes, at least, to what is beautiful about the building and the heritage and the city and will always be such.
My villain is whoever invented the Section 106 Agreement, which must have done more damage and is still doing more damage to cities than anything else ever produced by central government. The idea that you can build anything you like as long as you give the local authority a primary school somewhere else in the Borough is about as crass a way of polluting the planning system as you could possibly have invented.

The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MBE MP – I think getting developers to put something back in to the community is a good idea as long as it doesn’t interfere with the judgements that have to be made.

(But of COURSE it affects the judgements that are made, why wouldn’t it? Permission given for five large new houses in the very heart of the Avebury World Heritage Site in exchange for building some starter homes elsewhere? Didn’t that involve someone’s judgement being influenced to the extreme disadvantage of Avebury,  Margaret?! – Ed)

Simon Jenkins:  It does. It wrecks the plan

Margaret Hodge:  I don’t agree. It doesn’t have to at all. That just depends on the quality of the planning decision.

(Darn right it does! – Ed)

A development that Margaret would say doesn't "wreck the plan" (In this case, The Avebury World Heritage Site Management Plan!)

English Heritage committee members recently opined that “public benefit”, “economic benefit” and “other benefits” should be combined into a single term in the government’s new planning guidelines!

Members felt that the phrase ‘public benefits’ should be used with caution, due to the difficulty in defining how public benefit is judged. It was suggested that one single term could possibly be used to cover ‘public benefit’, ‘economic benefit’ and other benefits, although recognising the difficulty in settling upon an agreed term”
(From Section 6.4.b of the minutes of the English Heritage Advisory Committee, September 2009, discussing the government’s draft New Planning Policy Statement on Planning for the Historic Environment.

Sad and telling that our statutory heritage champion is anxious that a single phrase is used for “public benefit”, “economic benefit” and “other benefit”. One could ask “who is likely to gain massively from such a deliberate lack of clarity? The public or people that are out to make money?” An answer was supplied at Thornborough. And the Rotherwas Ribbon. And Bond’s Garage, Avebury (and on almost a weekly basis with insolent openness in Ireland). In each case there was enormous “benefit” (as the unified phrase might indicate) yet in each case it was private monetary benefit at the expense of public heritage benefit.

So, should there be a single phrase to describe such happenings? “Benefit gained”?  Hardly! Not outside the pages of 1984. Bad idea, not distinguishing economic benefit from cultural benefit as clearly as possible on every occasion that arises (or claiming it’s too difficult to even try!)

Here is the Thornborough complex, unique in the world. The majority of it’s surroundings have now been destroyed. For gravel. So should what happened there be thought of as a murky mix of “public benefit’, ‘economic benefit’ and other benefits”? We think not! Heritage assets were destroyed so there is no public cultural benefit. There is gravel in loads of places in Britain so there is no public economic benefit. So the only benefit that accrued were the “other benefits” – in other words, the financial benefit to Tarmac PLC. Truths such as that ought to be kept crystal clear ought they not since it was THAT benefit, and that benefit alone, that the planning system combined with the protection system delivered there after much deliberation and virtuous talk!

The sensitive archaeology of the Bremore area can be “worked aroundaccording to John Bruder, Treasury Holdings’ managing director for Ireland.

There’s only a small pleasure to be had in being cynical about this type of announcement. Much greater are the feelings of despair, irritation, even anger, that it provokes. I’d really rather not have to think about or react to it, but things in Ireland are the way that they are.

Our quotes of the week have often tended to be in the form of these gob-smacked reactions, to the latest line of  blatant falsity or misrepresentation. The dripping grease on the burgers being shoved down the public throat, if you will. John Bruder’s reassurance, uttered back in March, follows one such formula. The ‘what are you getting all het up about? We’ll look after it’ approach. There are many others and I’m sure that we’ll all get well used to them before this is finished; ‘major job creation‘, ‘no other options for a deepwater port‘, ‘just the boost the country needs at this time’ and so on. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, or so they say.

Ok. Just in case you’re tempted to trust John’s intentions and think, “Well, that’s me off so. What the hell are we worried about at all? Stick a fence around the old lumps and bumps and everything’s sorted”, have a read of the excellent, funny and accurate article below. If I could fit the whole thing into a quote of the week I would, just to celebrate the truth for one week. It‘s a nice feeling now and again:

“…Ah now, An Taisce, hold on there just a minute. Don’t you know that there’s no need for one of them things at all, at all. Sure everyone knows that the Irish government, or any of its tentacled organs, never publishes an actual, independent Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), at least not one that disagrees on its ‘preferred’ route, I mean, option. The portions of the original EIS it left out of the (2001) Halcrow Barry Report on the M3’s route picking selection, was nothing more then an attempt to save the environment. It was already fierce long altogether, so it was…”

  “Never before has so much archaeological material been removed from the earth through illegal looting as it has since the 1990s. We are witness to a ‘decontextualisation process’ on an enormous scale which affects all archaeological objects……This is a loss of historical source material that is without comparison, and it cannot be replaced”

H.-M von Kaenel, Coins in Context I: New Perspectives for the Interpretation of Coin Finds, Studien zu Fundmünzen der Antike 23 – Mainz) 2009.

What has this to do with British metal detecting since most of it takes place with permission, on non-scheduled sites and is legal, encouraged, partnered, subsidised and described by a government minister as heroic?

It’s simple: beyond Britain no-one pretends recreational and entrepreneurial metal detecting isn’t erosive, profoundly damaging and involves a loss of historical source material that is without comparison.

Brtitish metal detecting. Not looting. Merely the cause of vastly more damage in total than looting.

This is not something that is mentioned on the website of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Nor denied!

“Anyone very familiar with the anti-collecting lobby will be able to spot likely astroturfers. They frequently hide their identities and do not attach any real name to their blogs etc. They also frequently show up in blog responses of their allies. Sometimes, they adopt a number of identities for this so that one appears as many….  Heritage Action is almost a text-book definition of the term, although we cannot know if they are funded from other sources and thus are true astroturfers or are merely adopting many of the techniques of astroturfing….”

Crumbs! Well Mr Hooker, all we can tell you is that our identities are well known, we receive no funding from anyone else and despite your fantasies we are exactly what we say we are, ordinary people caring for extraordinary places.

As such, we think we are more representative of the British people than you or your metal detectorist suppliers and our message to you is the same as our message to metal detectorists (who also often attack us in the same way):  it is not Heritage Action members who are damaging the British archaeological resource, it is not Heritage Action members who are helping themselves to history uninvited. And especially for you Mr Hooker: it is not US that are paying oodles of dollars to those that do – it is YOU.

When you stop, we’ll discuss morals with you.

 “We believe that the current levels of delay are unacceptable. They are severely testing the goodwill of finders and undermining the provisions of the Treasure Act by introducing a disincentive to reporting”

[National Council for Metal Detecting Policy Statement January 2009]

Churlish, certainly – British metal detectorists are already uniquely privileged as their activity is legalised and even encouraged whereas elsewhere it would land them in jail. As if that wasn’t enough, if they get lucky they can be paid large rewards for “Treasure” items. What arrogance to complain that delays in paying them are “unacceptable“?!

But it is more than that. Since it is criminal not to report a Treasure item then payment delays cannot be what NCMD claims them to be – “a disincentive to reporting”. Except in one way (that the NCMD doesn’t spell out) – if you conceal your find from the authorities and sell it illegally on the quiet you can get your money faster. Thus they are issuing both a confession and a threat, effectively saying unless rewards are paid more promptly some detectorists will sell their finds illegally and they will never be reported.

Thus Britain stands in a practical and philosophical quagmire. Not only is it permitting recreational and entrepreneurial erosion of its archaeological resource; not only is it paying millions to buy its own treasures; not only is it rewarding people for not breaking the law….. it is being warned in unmistakeable terms by the main representative body of metal detectorists that unless it pays up fully and promptly it can forget about seeing some of those treasures at all as they will be disposed of illegally elsewhere. It is being warned that it is being blackmailed by an unspecified number of metal detectorists.

To borrow a phrase from the NCMD, it is not the delay in making payments to its members that is “unacceptable” but the delay in rectifying the whole situation.  Just over the Irish Sea  no metal detectorist is blackmailing the government, metal detecting is illegal and anyone doing it would have to wait till hell freezes over for a reward (although ordinary members of the public wouldn’t) and of course Ireland’s archaeological artefact record isn’t subject to relentless legalised recreational erosion .

“I don’t go metal detecting for the money. I do it out of historical interest – but if somebody is going to stand up and throw money at me I am not going to not take it”

Some, including the hard-pressed British taxpayer, might think Mr Darke’s words illustrate just how ludicrous it is to be paying metal detectorists millions of pounds in rewards for doing what they all swear blind they would do without any reward anyway. And they might further reflect on why on earth we are spending further millions encouraging and supporting them in a hobby that other countries deem illegal and would simply send them to prison for!

You can see a photograph of long term metal detectorist Mr Darke, together with details of his fall-out with his metal detecting co-finder over who gets what dosh here. If you pay tax or care about the archaeological record, or think the first should go towards protecting the second not in facilitating it’s erosion away into the hands of a few thousand nameless and entirely unregulated private individuals (most of whom tell no-one what they have found or where) it’s definitely worth a look.

Mr. John Gormley, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and see-no-evil do-nothing witness to the violent rape of Ireland’s most precious ancient heritage, has just launched not one but THREE  “Agreed Codes of Archaeological Practice” in co-operation with potential heritage-worriers Eirgrid, ESB Networks and the “Irish Concrete Federation” (which includes one or two aggregate hungry outfits of the ilk of those that have desecrated so much heritage in Britain)…..

Here’s his remarkable Quote:

The codes show that development and conservation can go hand in hand.

Hand in hand, eh John? Like you let happen without lifting a finger at Tara then?

And more:

I hope  that the Codes would help spread the message that “being pro heritage does not equate to being anti-development.”

Heaven forbid! But why did you avoid saying the obvious other bit John, that you also hoped the Codes would help spread the message that “being pro development does not equate to being anti-heritage“?

Too worried you might choke on your words? Or that your pals in the Irish Concrete Federation might not like it? Who knows?

Come kindly JCBs, roll over Ireland!

Hey John, stick this at the front of your weasly worded Codes, it was penned by one of your countrymen more than three years ago, before proud important you and your proud important predecessors conspired and blinkered to let it happen without a squeak. It says more about development and heritage than anything in your Codes ever could –

Tara abandoned by a generation who prefer soulless symbols

TARA, here I am. I have come all the way from Kerry to be with you before the vultures, with bulldozers and JCBs, open your lower belly. They are impatient to inflict the wounds.

You are abandoned, forsaken and rejected. All the powers that be – Meath County Council, the Government, NRA, An Bord Pleanála and the High Court – have walked out on you. We pay them to protect you but they betrayed us. We trusted them too much.

Tara, I know you sympathise with the people who are forced to commute to Dublin five days a week. But why are they not angry with Meath County Council for not putting in a bypass at Dunshaughlin and a proper one in Navan 20 years ago? They allowed them not only to close down but also to rip up the Dublin/Navan/Trim railway line over 30 years ago. And they still trust them. There were so many other options for this road. Are you the same Tara who was magic for Master O’Connell, the principal of Tarmons National School in Tarbert? He instilled a love of you into our hearts, and I can still see the face of Fr O’Flaherty (our history teacher in St Brendan’s, Killarney) come alive at your name. But that was a different generation, other times. You are no longer in fashion. This generation prefers soulless symbols – motorways, shopping malls, four-wheel drives, big trucks and, of course, the euro. I expected all the people in Ireland to have run to protect you. It would have been unacceptable, I thought, to run a motorway through the Tara/Skryne Valley, opening up a wound that no plastic surgery can cure. But this generation was not touched, nor incensed. How sad. Will you forgive us?

The day Environment Minister Dick Roche sanctioned the motorway, I was watching the evening news in a pub. One man said, when he saw Mr Roche on TV, “Isn’t he a pity? I wouldn’t ask him to mind my chickens, and Bertie Ahern put him in charge of our heritage and environment. He has no bottle, afraid of the hawks.” Poor Mr Roche. Maybe he has no power. An Bord Pleanála, which is not comprised of elected representatives, makes all the big decisions. Or does it? Who has real power today?

Democracy, the people’s participation in the ordering of their own lives, is now perceived as a meaningless facade that hides the ruthlessness of corporate self-interest. The suspicion that political ideologies and institutions are becoming irrelevant because politics is being reduced to following ‘the laws of the market’ is creating political unease among people and cynicism among the young about voting. Tara, what else can your support groups and friends do now? Are all avenues closed? Has your hour come? Will we call the lone piper to play a dirge?

Tommy O’Hanlon
Co Kerry

A related article about kindly snouts in convenient troughs will follow shortly.


July 2021

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