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Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Fens.... It spreads.
Rescue letter now up on our website, sorry about the delay!
Was there any news on this?
There's some more news on this. Sandwell MBC have made a statement on the provision of their heritage service (on TwitLonger of all places!):

Quote:"There have been two redundancies because of the move away from an in-house archaeological service, alongside others across planning."

Read the full statement here.

It appears the conservation officer will now undertake the duties previously performed by the Borough Archaeologist and HER officer, with some services being outsourced.

Of course you wouldn't know any of this if you looked at the official Sandwell MBC archaeology web page:

Quote:The archaeological team at Sandwell comprises of the Borough Archaeologist, Planning Archaeologist and Historic Environment Records Officer...
Quote:We have a long and proud history here in Sandwell which we are committed to preserving and celebrating.

Certainly sounds like they're fully committed to preserving and celebrating their heritage! Seriously, I'm sure their conservation officer is great as a conservation officer, but to expect him / her to provide archaeological advice and maintain the SMR while still acting as a conservation officer as well is just unrealistic. If I was paranoid, I'd say that they'll set some sort of unrealistic target, then when the conservation officer can't meet it because they're doing the work of three people, they'll use it as an excuse to sack him / her.
You know Marcus. He once got lost in his own museum
Of course, the duties of a Conservation Officer are a statutory function of all Local Planning Authorities, so much harder to end. Archaeological planning advice and the HER are just fripperies in comparison. Without statutory status, this happens every time a council wants to save some money.
I think we need to see what the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says when it is published in the New Year. Sources close to the ground were suggesting at the recent TAG conference that archaeology has done all right out of the discussion and consultation and that there has been very little taken away from the principles outlined in PPS5.

If that is the case then it is up to archaeologists to make the case with relevant planning authorities that archaeology is professionally represented in the planning process, perhaps using the Fenland and Sandwell cases as examples of bad practice and intent led by ignorance. I think if we fail to make our case, given the opportunity once NPPF is implemented, we have very little to complain about....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
Having contacted Sandwell HER for data today, I can report that the archive services person, who is responsible now for all HER data, does not seem to be up to speed (clearly through no fault of their own). If they are not able to talk to me about what I want from the existing database, the question has to be asked whether they will be able to augment it following work carried out in the borough.

I get the feeling that the view was all old stuff can be dealt with by archive services, regardless of the nature of the information. We will be relying I suspect more and more on the NMR for some parts of the country. Perhaps it is time for EH to take over HERs and run them, with monitoring at a district and county level continuing until that too is deemed unnecessary.

While it will probably continue to work where it already works, in those places where there is a desire to get shot of heritage bunnies BANG!!!
Your Courage Your Cheerfulness Your Resolution
Will Bring US Victory
I know it doesn't apply in England, but in Scotland the recently-published PAN 2/2011 is fairly good on this. Paragraphs 10, 11 and 12 are quite clear that an SMR or HER should be maintained and curated by a suitably-qualified professional archaeologist, as follows:

Quote:10. It is essential that every planning authority has access to a Sites and Monuments Record ( SMR) / Historic Environment Record ( HER) (a record of all known sites), curated by a professional archaeologist on behalf of the local authority or a dedicated heritage body.

11. Information held within SMRs / HERs represents an indispensable tool for the formulation of development plans and the determination of planning applications. More generally, the creation and analysis of a SMR / HER is an important first stage in the positive management and preservation of the historic environment for the purposes of education and recreation, and as an input to local history, conservation and tourism projects.

12. An effective SMR / HER will be regularly maintained and updated and easily accessible to the public. It requires 4 main features to be effective:

professionally competent curatorship and analysis;
a list and description of all known monuments and archaeological sites and finds within the geographic area, to support accurate assessment of their importance;
a map record (commonly at a scale of 1:10,000) or digital application which identifies the location and extent (where known) of each monument, site and find-spot; and
detailed additional supporting information for specific sites, such as photographs, survey and excavation reports and references to relevant published and unpublished sources, plus links or cross-references to other sources of information, such as the lists of statutorily designated historic environment assets created and maintained by Historic Scotland and the national inventory of sites and monuments held by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland ( RCAHMS).

It's only a guidance document, but there's one Scottish council whose HER has for the last couple of years been maintained by a planning assistant with no archaeological background, so it will be interesting to see how they'll respond to any challenge that they're not acting in accordance with policy. While the PAN still stops short of making SMRs / HERs statutory, it certainly seems to be a step in the right direction towards making it more difficult for councils to claim they're dealing with archaeology correctly if their HER is maintained by the work experience person.
You know Marcus. He once got lost in his own museum

Check out the comments-unfortunately the ones from the public seem to vindicate Melton et al while the ones that are clearly from the employees are not helpful.

We are clearly still not selling our profession to the public

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