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IfA urges Council Leaders to protect South Yorkshire Archaeology Service - latest

The committee responsible for the Service met on Thursday 21 July and agreed to recommend to the Leaders of Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster Councils that the proposed 50% cut should be revoked and the previously agreed 15% cut reinstated. The four Council Leaders meet on Friday 22 July and will consider the recommendation. IfA has sent the following appeal to the four Leaders in advance of their meeting.

Dear Council Leaders,

As you may be aware, the Institute for Archaeologists has written to members 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 its concern for the future of the service. We are aware of the outcome of the meeting earlier today and the recommendation to you to reject the call for an increased cut of 50%, and to confirm instead to the 15% cut agreed at your meeting last December and approved by the South Yorkshire Leaders’ meeting in January. This reduction in itself has significant consequences for SYAS, but we recognise the difficult financial circumstances faced by local authorities.

As we conveyed to the Joint Committee, we are concerned to ensure that the implications of any further reduction in archaeological 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.

You may find this document, http://www.britarch.ac.uk/archforum/Why_LAs_need_an_archaeologist_Short.pdf, published by The Archaeology Forum, a useful source of guidance on the importance of the service for which you are jointly responsible.

I do hope that, you will recognise how essential it is to confirm your previous decision. The authorities you lead have the privilege of and responsibility for acting as stewards for an archaeological heritage of international importance. Perhaps even more importantly, as I know from personal experience, this valuable yet fragile heritage creates an extraordinary sense of pride and identity for the communities of South Yorkshire that have over generations shaped, worked and lived in a unique pre-industrial, industrial and post-industrial landscape.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Hinton BA FSA FRSA MIfA MIAM Chief Executive, Institute for Archaeologists

Institute for Archaeologists
Miller Building
University of Reading

Reading RG6 6AB

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