27th May 2016:

Oxford Archaeology views the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill proposals to limit the number and extent of conditions imposed in the planning process with deep concern. We are also surprised that they come so soon after the very recent publication of DCMS' Culture White Paper which promotes the intrinsic value of culture, of which the historic environment forms part, and the importance of sharing cultural benefits more widely.

As has already been noted by a number of commentators, conditions are imposed on only around 1% of planning permissions and the cost of heritage and other environmental measures represents a tiny proportion of development costs. Significant delays to projects as a result of this work are extremely rare on well-designed and managed schemes. Conversely, the results of work undertaken in advance of development are of extremely high value and have, since the introduction of planning controls (PPG16 in 1990 and more recently NPPF), revolutionised our understanding of how our society was formed and how the places in which we live were created. The very clear interest which the public shows in archaeology, whether as seen on television (eg Digging for Britain) or by attending open days, lectures and displays, is proof of the importance the public attaches to the investigation of our shared cultural heritage.

It is important that heritage organisations take a strong and unified approach and OA is supporting our Chartered Institute (CIfA) and our industry representative body, the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers (FAME), in their endeavours to bring the consequences of this Bill to the attention of the Government. We hope that it will recognise that the means by which information about and understanding of our past is gained is in serious danger of being undermined.

Professor Chris Gosden, Chairman of the Trustees, and Dr Gill Hey, Chief Executive Officer