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A range of leading naturalists plus the former heads of Natural England, English Nature, the RSPB and the National Trust have issued grave warnings about the potential effect of Brexit on Britain’s countryside. We’re highlighting their letter here because the bulk of archaeological protection is closely linked to environmental protection measures (and mainly financed by European money) and therefore of equal concern. Telling excerpts from their letter include the following:
- “Far from being ‘red tape’, the rules and regulations coming out of Brussels have been “critical” to improving the quality of Britain’s water, air and natural environment”
- “It’s vital to recognise that virtually the entire legal protection for our environment here in Britain derives from European safeguards”
- “UK politics has a tendency to be short term and see the natural environment as an impediment to economic growth, and EU agreements help mitigate this by encouraging us to be more long term in our public policy.”
- “If the UK were to pull out of the EU the Government would be under huge pressure from industry to water down environmental protections in areas like energy efficiency to help the UK to become more competitive against our former European partners.”
- Our air, water and land are kept clean by European laws. And rightly so, because pollution knows no national boundaries. We ignore these protections at our peril.”
Why have staff from the National Trust (NT) been suggesting the short Stonehenge tunnel would be beneficial for wildlife?
It is proposed that only a little over half of the present road would be inside a tunnel – the remainder either side would be converted into four lanes of traffic travelling much faster through the World Heritage Site (WHS). And to quote a National Road Death Survey dating from the early part of this century: “High traffic speed increased the likelihood of many mammal species, including fox, badger and roe deer, and also the tawny owl, falling victim to vehicles as it reduces the time available for drivers and animals to react to danger.” This supposed ‘benefit’ projected onto the short tunnel depends then on which side of the National Trust fence the wildlife happens to be on!
It seems that the likelihood of a short tunnel at Stonehenge has increased now that Historic England has published guidance which legitimises major works at World Heritage sites if there are “important planning justifications“. Such a proposition, which is little more than an assertion of central power, is likely to be frequently heard during any public consultation period. It is not a proposition that will necessarily play well beyond Britain. Will the Government be able to quietly persuade UNESCO to say a short tunnel is OK? It may not be easy, as shown by the following excerpts from two ICOMOS publications. The idea of UNESCO being “got at” is a controversial and disrespectful one, for which we apologise, but almost every word below suggests they are themselves acutely aware there’s a real risk:
It hasn’t happened so far (Lord Ahmad has revealed that Highways England’s preliminary planning for the tunnel scheme has not included any consultation with ICOMOS-UK). But UNESCO will have to be formally approached sooner or later. What if they won’t play? Well, we could defy them and let them chuck us out. Or we could withdraw on the pretext they were wasting money, like we threatened to do 5 years ago. Or we could actually withdraw, citing anti-Western bias and financial mismanagement like Margaret Thatcher did in 1985. It seems certain that one of those three consequences would have to come about. What is less certain is that UNESCO would disregard it’s own ethical safeguards and give the short tunnel (or a pragmatic compromise version of it) it’s blessing. It’s not that sort of organisation.
Addendum: Incidentally, we notice the Head of International Advice for Historic England is about to deliver a public lecture in Birmingham. The introductory text says “the UK can sometimes find itself at odds with the broad consensus view about how best to manage and protect WHSs. In particular the concept of “constructive conservation” can clash with less flexible approaches to protection.”
One has to wonder whether that puzzling term “constructive conservation” is another phrase we may be hearing a lot of during the short tunnel consultation period?
Addendum 2: In addition, last month the Principle Inspector of Historic England spoke at an academic conference on “Constructive Conservation at the Heart of Place Making”. Something’s definitely up! But will UNESCO get on board?
We have nothing useful to add to the widespread indignation expressed about Channel 5’s decision to air a re-branded version of “Nazi War Diggers” tonight.
Update: it has now happened. Two excellent accounts of it are here and here. Quotes of the night from the participants, surely: “There’s black diggers over there. We’ve got to be thorah as if we leave anything they’ll ‘ave it!” and from his colleague (who sells Nazi memorabia for a living: “they want to get the artifact out of the ground, History be damned and go sell it and I have a problem with that”. Idiots indeed (and ditto the universal mindless praise coming from detecting forums. Are you watching, Mr Government?)
So instead, here’s a lighthearted January puzzle to take everyone’s mind off all self-seeking grubbers!
(Answer next week!)
The Institute of Art and Law blog has published a review by Richard Harwood QC of the recently introduced Historic Environment (Wales) Bill. Two matters struck us as particularly significant:
1. In the case of damage to a monument the bill proposes that any defence should require due diligence to be demonstrated, not just lack of knowledge. 2. A remark by Mr Harwood: “Perhaps the most significant amendment that could be added to the Bill is to introduce a statutory duty to have special regard to the desirability of protecting scheduled monuments and their settings, to match the greater protection already given to listed buildings.
We can’t help reflecting that such provisions would have great benefits on both sides of Offa’s Dyke. In fact, the Journal would have a lot less to write about!
. All I want for Christmas is a neolithic flint sickle from Ramsgate!
. Season’s Greetings to all our contributors and readers!
We didn’t quite believe it when we first heard it, but we’ve found a video of it. Look what happened at this years soltice gathering:
The shock isn’t the one person dancing on top but the thousands cheering him. They clearly aren’t druids or pagans or megaraks or archaeologists or EH staff or anyone that gives a damn about Stonehenge, they’re just there for a laugh. That would be OK if the number allowed into the circle was just at the level that allowed EH to exercise some control to prevent not just that sort of incident but also other things that happened this year – chalk, candle wax and resin on the stones and excrement near them.
Next year solstice will be at a weekend so numbers will be higher still so here’s an idea. Why not cancel all those “Round Table” sessions and let all who care for Stonehenge (Druids, pagans, megaraks, archaeologists and EH staff) have a single meeting to decide the reduced number of people inside the stones they will all co-operate to bring about next June? That would certainly deliver increased protection to the stones, an enhancement to the reputation of genuine druids and pagans and a boost to EH’s international image as an efficient guardian of a world heritage site. It’s pretty simple, if you oppose “restricted access” you are putting the welfare of Stonehenge second. Who can deny that’s true?
The Long Barrow at All Cannings is a columbarium or place for cremated remains in urns to be kept. It is being built in 2014 in the style of a traditional long barrow in natural materials, but made relevant for today in its internal layout. It is aligned to the sunrise of the winter solstice when the sun will illuminate the internal stone passageway.
The long barrow is for anyone. It is for those of any religion or none. The field it is in is being restored to native chalk grassland and will be kept as natural as possible for visitors to enjoy its beauty and solitude.
See more here.
It’s nearly a week since we pointed it out but Regtons, Britain’s largest metal detecting shop, is STILL advertising a range of sophisticated night vision gadgets and describing them as “metal detecting accessories”.
Are you happy about that? Are you convinced that legitimate metal detectorists need such things? If not, you might care to ask anyone who knocks on your door this weekend asking for detecting permission if they’ve contacted Regtons to protest.
You could ask them to leave a comment here on The Heritage Journal confirming that they have. (So far, out of 8,000 metal detectorists, not one has – although some have left messages abusing us.)