Sheffield City Council hosts the South Yorkshire Archaeology Service under a service level agreement with its three neighbouring South Yorkshire authorities. Although the four authorities agreed a 15% cut in funding for SYAS, Sheffield has now budgeted for a 50% cut. IfA has written to representatives of the four authorities, who meet on Thursday 21 July to discuss this move.
Dear Mr Turner
I am writing to you as Secretary of the Joint Advisory Committee for South Yorkshire Archaeology Service to convey to you the IfA’s concern, as professional institute for the study and care of the historic environment, about the potential effects to SYAS of the increased cut of 50% proposed by Sheffield City Council following the agreement to a 15% cut agreed at your meeting last December and approved by the South Yorkshire Leaders’ meeting in January.
I would be grateful if you could provide me with contact details for the Councillors involved, or forward this message to them for consideration during your meeting on Thursday.
We realise that these are challenging times and that there are difficult decisions to be made. But we are concerned to ensure that the implications of any reduction in historic environment capability are understood.
- First, the four South Yorkshire authorities must retain an adequate level of expertise to be able to comply with Planning Policy Statement 5. PPS5 is quite clear that archaeological knowledge and understanding are necessary to ensure informed planning decisions are made about the protection of undesignated heritage assets. Vitally this includes maintaining an up-to-date Historic Environment Record. We understand that these provisions are to be emphasised in the draft National Planning Policy Framework to be released for public consultation this week.
- Secondly, recognising that it is often the case that the benefits of development outweigh those of retaining sites and monuments, the loss of the asset can be offset by the planning authority requiring the applicant to commission a programme of investigation, excavation, analysis and publication of the results, including opportunities for voluntary sector and community participation. SYAS has an excellent track record of securing such outcomes. This can only be secured by planning conditions or obligations: without professional historic environment advice to planners this responsibility cannot be adequately discharged and important elements of South Yorkshire’s heritage will be lost without record.
- Thirdly, the role of planning archaeologists in applying such conditions is critical to levering in private sector investment in archaeology. I am sure your officers and those of the other three authorities will have the figures for South Yorkshire, but nationally the picture is one of each post bringing in c £1m annually of such inward investment – an annual return of 30 to 40 times the cost of employment.
- Fourthly, this investment is directly applied through the planning process to bringing communities new understanding and enjoyment. It is a major contribution to quality of life and sense of place for the people of South Yorkshire. It is something the four authorities should be proud of. Such dividends are rarely equalled by other sectors and should not be put at risk.
I do hope that the Joint Committee is able to persuade the four authorities to protect their invaluable Archaeology Service by reversing the decision made by Sheffield City Council.
I look forward to hearing your advice on how best to contact the Councillors concerned before the meeting on Thursday.
Peter Hinton BA FSA FRSA MIfA MIAM
Chief Executive, Institute for Archaeologists