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Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit to close
This has been going round on Twitter, thought I'd post it here for anyone who hasn't seen it yet:

Quote:Manchester University has decided to close the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit (GMAU) as it no longer fits with the University?s research and teaching priorities. The GMAU has provided a high quality archaeological service to the 10 Greater Manchester Planning Authorities for over 30 years. The local planning authorities are looking to secure provision of a planning archaeological service from an alternative provider as a long term solution. Clearly any provision will have to be value for money, ensuring that the Councils receive the statutory advice which they need in determining planning applications. GMAU will finish providing archaeological advice for all but urgent planning matters from the 16th March so that it has time to wind up its affairs.

The full statement is available on the HER Forum Jiscmail list.
I believe that negotiations are underway with another organisation to host this service but am not sure how they are progressing or what form they will eventually take.
one girl went to dig, went to dig a meadow...
More sad news, I received an email from them with that message yesterday afternoon.

If it's anything like the negotiations that have been going on in Murkeyside, we could be in for a long wait. I'm assuming that the sticking point there (and will be elsewhere) is the fact that someone will want paying for their services.
D. Vader
Senior Consultant

Vader Maull & Palpatine
Archaeological Consultants

A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of Tony Robinson.
The logic of this closure is totally beyond me.....The GMAU provides HER advice to 10 planning authorities in the Manchester area. It operates in a cost-effective and regionally cohesive manner. All 10 planning authorities will continue to require this advice after the closure of GMAU.

It seems impossible to believe that individually the planning authorities can recieve the necessary archaeological advice any cheaper than they currently do, yet the driving force behind the closure is claimed to be cost-cutting. How does that work? Surely heads need banging together here before the baby is thrown out with the bath water!!
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
This has been on the cards for some time and though there are many people working behind the scenes to try and ensure that some kind of archaeological service does continue there is as yet no provision in place for after the 31st of March. The person to contact to express concern at a lack of service is the Planning Lead for AGMA . Don't let what happened in Mersyside happen in Manchester if enough people express concern AGMA may appreciate what they are about to loose.

GMAU was in a unique position as it was a partnership between the University of Manchester and AGMA. the university withdrew from the partnership and AGMA has to review how it will provide a similar service with cost cuts on the horizon. If there is a strong response to withdrawal of the service there is a good chance they will find a way of continuing it in some form or other.
I'd have thought that it wasn't just a question of whether they can afford to run the service, but one of how they can fulfill their statutory obligations to take advice where planning might be affected by archaeological circumstance. I am sure that the IfA will be writing to AGMA (as they did in the Fenland case) to remind them that ditching a service does not necessarily discharge them from their responsibilities ....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
Ahh but what are the "statutory" obligations? A planning policy statement is stronger than planning policy guidance but are either of them "statutory"? The legislation applies to scheduled monuments and listed buildings not the more general "heritage assets".

Lets hope the IFA CBA RESCUE etc contact AGMA and remind them why they need the service. So far it hasn't made much difference in Merseyside which is just next door.
Wax Wrote:Ahh but what are the "statutory" obligations? A planning policy statement is stronger than planning policy guidance but are either of them "statutory"? The legislation applies to scheduled monuments and listed buildings not the more general "heritage assets".

HE2.1 Regional and local planning authorities should ensure that they have evidence
about the historic environment and heritage assets in their area and that this is
publicly documented. The level of detail of the evidence should be proportionate
and sufficient to inform adequately the plan-making process.

HE2.2 Local planning authorities should either maintain or have access to a historic
environment record.6

HE2.3 Local planning authorities should use the evidence to assess the type, numbers,
distribution, significance and condition of heritage assets and the contribution that
they may make to their environment now and in the future. It should also be used
to help predict the likelihood that currently unidentified heritage assets,
particularly sites of historic and archaeological interest, will be discovered in the

In that's it as good as we are ever going to get (and on the understanding that NPPF will enshrine PPS5) I am guessing that using the word should in all the examples quoted is as close to statutory as makes no difference....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
I suspect that in the legal world "should" is a very long way from "will"

The current government might be very willing to argue the difference but if enough people protest and use Panning Policy Statment 5 to back up their arguments we might win some of the battles. So guys and gals use it before you loose it, ask your local authorities how they are meeting the sections in PPS 5 that Kevin has quoted.
Someone asked about statutory obligations; so I've been thinking about what they are and are not, the better to put a case to the council.

To that end, the council's statutory obligations, as far as I know, are as follows. Note: this is for England, and other amendments may apply in some circumstances (e.g. for permitted development). Please do call me out on any errors or gobbledigook, and mention any omissions, as I'm tapping this out quickly.

The former PPGs15/16, PPS5, and the forthcoming NPPF are non-statutory policy, although the PPSs are 'material considerations' in the planning process (as directed in one or other of the amendments to the 1990 Act). Historically, councils have been quite good on requiring developers to spend money, but now some councils want to save their own money these policies suddenly don't look very firm (if only we'd got our Heritage Protection Act..). I would love it if anyone with better understanding of planning law could post a short authorititive summary as to why councils should have to enforce non-statutory policies (as opposed to just 'considering' them). Shan't hold my breath though.

Statutory legislation regarding terrestrial 'heritage assets' comprises the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act, 1979, and the Town and Country Planning Act (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas), 1990. These are concerned with statutorily designated assets, for which English Heritage are statutory consultees, so the council can argue that they don't need their own advisors for them.

For non-designated assets things get murkier, but also more hopeful. Under the main T&CP Act, 1990, councils were required to produce Local Plans that, among other things, detailed their specific policies, including heritage. Those policies are therefore legally binding. The Local Plans lapsed in about 2007 (after the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 superseded them*), although because the suceeding frameworks never got off the ground each council website has a list of policies that were 'saved' from the Local Plan and are still in use. As a result, Manchester Council will no doubt discover that they do have statutory obligations in respect of undesignated heritage assets after all, just like Councillor Melton did in the Bunnyhugger Saga last year.

The last bit of statutory obligation that Manchester Council have is to the Valetta Convention, which I confess I can't remember much about as when we signed it it seemed pretty similar to what we were already doing. Methinks it deserves a re-read. What would be really interesting though is not so much what it says shall be done in Britain, but under whose authority and threat of sanction. ...hmm...if no-one else takes that up (Kev?), I'll come back to it later.

There were some excellent responses to Melton's speech along these lines, which set out the legal basis for heritage work in Britain far better than I, and if tracked down again could just be forwarded to Manchester Council in the hope that they'll realise that if they get rid of their own advisors they will still have to pay for external ones (..and I think an appeal to their wallets will be more effective than to their conciences or the views of their electorate).

*They were to be replaced by Local Development Frameworks and Regional Spatial Strategies. If anyone saw any of these implemented I'd be interested to hear, but in any case Eric Pickles scrapped them unilaterally

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