There's several issues here:
volunteers replacing a potential job
The funding provided to facilitate and train the volunteers was only made available on the basis of the additional 'in kind' benefit of the volunteer contribution. There would be no funding for a HER post. GGAT, as an educational charity, has always sought to encourage involvement of all people with their heritage, including site work, finds processing, erosion monitoring, and HER enhancement, and this is a development of that work. We believe that having people in the community who are archaeologically aware is good for society. GGAT recognises the difficulties for new entrants to the profession and has been involved in several placement schemes aimed at addressing them.
access to HER
GGAT's commercial arm, GGAT Projects, pays the same access charge as other commercial contractors.
There is normally no charge for non-commercial enquiries.
The charge for HER enquiries is for the cost of the staff time involved in processing the enquiries as per the Welsh Archaeological Trusts' policy for access and charging: "Charges to bodies or individuals undertaking work on a commercial basis will normally be on a full costrecovery basis, including the salary costs of staff reassigned from other duties." This is not a charge for having compiled the record in the first place. (The funding provided to support the HER service specifically excludes the processing of commercial enquiries and therefore this service would not be available at all if no charge was made).
Archwilio give free online access to all the HERs in Wales.