Some quick thoughts on the petitions currently circulating regarding the proposed new Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill.
The worrying part of the Bill is this aim, “To ensure that pre-commencement planning conditions are only imposed by local planning authorities where they are absolutely necessary”
When a cost incentive is attached to determine whether something is “necessary”, somehow it almost always ends up being “unnecessary”.
A funny thing about archaeology is that you don’t know if it’s there until you go and look for it.
Another funny thing about archaeology in Britain is that it, as part of the more nebulous concept of “heritage”, is a growing resource (IF you find it, record it, preserve it and promote it!!) and one of the few things Britain still “manufactures” that is both:
- a desirable export – images, academic material, popular culture, travelling exhibitions, and I’ve read somewhere (but can’t find the reference!) that more people study British history and archaeology in English-speaking countries abroad than there are in Britain
- a serious pull factor for tourists and students, both of whom spend a lot of money for the privelige of being involved with archaeology here – even determinedly non-academic visitors will probably pop into a museum or consider a bus tour to Stonehenge, Stirling Castle, etc, and of the PhD community in my own archaeology department, the non-Brits vastly outnumber the Brits (and the non-EUs are pretty close to outnumbering the EUs as well)
There is a tendency to think that archaeology, museums and heritage sites are a luxury when allocating ever-diminishing funds at local authority level. But there is plenty of data demonstrating the economic benefits of heritage and archaeology; recent research suggests the heritage-based tourism economy alone directly accounts for at least £5 billion in GDP and 134,000 jobs.
Anyway, sign the petitions!