Lancashire County Council have announced (November 2015) huge cuts to their services. Amongst the many services to be closed (including five museums such as Queen Street Mill above) is a proposal to close the Lancashire Historic Environment Service. This will leave the county without any controls over archaeology threatened by development, just as happened in Liverpool between 2011 and 2014. Archaeology is a non-renewable resource. If this proposal goes ahead archaeological sites will be lost without any record and artefacts destroyed.
The historic environment, and archaeology in particular, is a concern which crosses a wide variety of social, cultural, and economic policy areas from urban design and local ‘sense of place’ to tourism. Failure by authorities to recognise this leads to the erosion of the quality of the environment, poor planning, damage to the local economy and above all the loss of local identity and community self-esteem and well-being.
This is an open letter to the leader of Lancashire County Council in my role as Chair of the Council for British Archaeology North West:
“I am writing on behalf of the Council for British Archaeology North West to protest in the strongest possible terms against the closure of the Lancashire Historic Environment Service.
The proposed closure raises a very serious question regarding what future provision the County intends to make for informed archaeological advice in the planning process, to meet the heritage requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework, otherwise known as NPPF. These provisions are not a discretionary service. The NPPF, and its planning guidance, governs planning policy affecting archaeological sites, monuments, buildings and landscapes, setting out a holistic framework for their constructive conservation. It embraces appropriate development that delivers the long term viability of heritage assets while conserving their significance for the benefit of generations to come and emphasises the importance of the principles of sustainable development applying to the management of change in the historic environment.
The Council for British Archaeology North West believes that Lancashire County Council needs to be held to account with regard to the heritage provisions of NPPF and needs to demonstrate that it:
- Will maintain or continue to have access to a Historic Environment Record (HER) as required in NPPF, page 41, paragraph 169.
- Will continue to hold evidence about the historic environment and heritage assets in its area and that this will remain publicly accessible.
- Will continue to have access to appropriate ‘expert advice’ (from in-house experts, experts available through agreement with other authorities, or consultants and complemented as appropriate by advice from heritage amenity societies) in order to fulfil the requirements of the NPPF.
- Furthermore, that the Council be able to demonstrate how it will ensure that all planning applications are monitored by a fully qualified and experienced archaeologist who is a member of the relevant professional body (The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists) and give assurances that there is a system in place to ensure that the significance of heritage assets is fully considered in the planning process.
The Council for British Archaeology North West has been promoting archaeology in the region for more than 40 years. Our membership, many of whom live within Lancashire, comprises 260 individuals and a dozen local archaeology and history societies (with a combined membership of over 600). On behalf of our extensive membership we remind the Council that it is required to maintain or have access to an HER – this is not a discretionary service.
We look forward to an urgent response giving us the assurances we seek under the four paragraphs above informing us how Lancashire County Council will continue to meet the heritage provisions of NPPF in the future.”