Although specific heritage legislation and policy has a clear impact on heritage protection and archaeological work in the UK, throughout history policy has also been affected by the dominant political agendas and philosophies of the time. Following elections in May 2010, the new Coalition Government came into power in the UK, with a manifesto focused on the ‘Big Society’.
This is in essence a localism agenda, aimed at decentralization and the devolvement of power from central to local government. One of the main aims of the Big Society is to enable local communities to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on state provision, as well as encouraging them to take local action. Thus, there are a number of measures within the 2011 Localism Bill aimed at empowering local communities to take a much more active role in local decision-making, particularly in relation to planning and development. But what has been the impact of the Big Society agenda on British archaeology, or alternatively, what effect has British archaeology had on the Big Society? How does archaeology fit in to the localism agenda, and what can we do to ensure that it continues to have an impact in the future?
This session will include papers which outline the impact of ‘Big Society’ policies, using case studies to showcase the positive contributions that archaeology and heritage can make to, for example, local planning and neighbourhood development forums, community projects and events, capacity-building projects and local decision-making. Papers which critically review the impact of the Big Society may also be presented, although it is intended that the session will focus on examples of good practice.