- Meeting of Buckinghamshire Historic Environment Forum, Monday 2nd March 2015 2.30 pm (Item 7.)
· Report of the Senior Archaeological Planning Officer
· Report of the Archaeological Planning Officer
· Report of the Historic Environment Record Officer
Philip Markham, Senior Archaeological Planning Officer gave the following update.
High Speed 2
Discussions are ongoing. HS2 Ltd has responded to the formal petition submitted to the Government by Bucks County Council. Bucks Archaeological Officers have subsequently requested clarification of certain aspects of the response via the HS2 team. A meeting to discuss the petitioning points is likely to be held shortly to try to get clear and responsive answers. Archaeological officers still attend the HS2 Heritage Sub Group meetings. A 30/40 page report of generic written schemes for investigation (WSIs) has been received which contains very little detail. Comments have been sent to HS2 Ltd.
A meeting took place in Birmingham to discuss the delivery strategy. The Archaeological Officer from Buckinghamshire advised that the baseline standard needs to be up to date before the strategy can be looked at in detail and comments made.
Discussions about the significant Roman findings in the site adjacent to St Rumbold’s Well, Buckingham are ongoing. The preferred option would be to preserve the archaeology in situ.
Evaluation of the sites confirmed the presence of Romano-British settlement remains in most cases. Options for protecting the site are being discussed.
During discussions, the following comments were made and questions asked.
HS2 Ltd documents show a distinctive line of the HS2 route but there are no details about maintenance/access roads. Officers need to bear in mind the effect of these roads on the area when an archaeology report is submitted.
Where there is evidence of corners being cut during discussions, has this been well documented as this could provide basic future evidence in court of bad practice. There is no evidence of corners being cut in the documents that have been supplied. The documents advise that the details will be provided in due course. Where archaeological officers have asked for further detail, the relevant documents have been provided often lacking detail.
The extended tunnel option has quite substantial additional works associated which will be very disruptive. HS2 Ltd documents include certain items that the archaeological officers would like to see covered. We try to influence the process but once the Bill has been signed, this is technically outside the planning process.
Has the impact of the tunnel on potential archaeological sites been looked at and have archaeological officers been consulted? Archaeological officers at Bucks County Council and staff at Wycombe District Council have not been consulted. Stoke Mandeville is an individual element. There is the need for some HS2 Ltd points to be generic to cover all eventualities, such as the archaeological investigation of compound sites.
If the HS2 route is moved away from St Mary’s, the line will run closer to the village of Stoke Mandeville where there could also potentially be sites of historical interest. The details about the potential revised routes for HS2 have not been received as yet. It is also about strategic planning.
Appeals against four large planning applications around Aylesbury have been dismissed. There is the need to be vigilant with the applications.
There were some transport related issues as well as environment issues with the planning applications that were refused. The applications could well re-appear in the future.
Has an excavation taken place on a Roman Town jointly with Milton Keynes? Nick Crank, Senior Archaeological Officer, Milton Keynes explained that archaeological investigation has taken place on a site in Fenny Stratford, Bletchley. The geophysics produced indicates a roman defended town with surrounding multi vallate defences and slight earthworks. There is also potentially a roman road from Watling Street. The northern area of the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. There appears to be lots of features in this area.
A Member raised the possibility of the scheduled area being extended.
A Member said that they were not aware that volunteers helped to update the historic environment records. Julia Wise, Historic Environment Record Officer explained that there has been a well-established group of volunteers for quite a while. The Historic Environment Records (HER) were originally largely developed by volunteers before an officer was appointed.
Concern was expressed about the constant receipt of new reports and staff shortages. Julia Wise explained that the backlog of reports had been considerable particularly when at times when there were staff shortages. A lot of effort has taken place to try to reduce the backlog which includes the field work reports. The process is now a lot more controlled than previously. However the backlog still does remain a concern and an HER assistant is needed.
In terms of updating the HER, there appears that about 6 months work is outstanding. The concern is that if the information is not on the system, no-one else can access it.
Reference has been made to the use of volunteers to update the HER. Does this include prisoners on day release as they could potentially be a less expensive source of expertise for record keeping? Julia Wise explained that the main problem with taking on HER volunteers is the lack of staff capacity to supervise them. The current volunteers are well trained. Some have an existing expertise and high level understanding of the material being recorded.
Is there the opportunity for a small charge to be attached to planning conditions to fund the post of an assistant to update the Historic Environment Records? It is not possible to add a small charge to planning conditions as the Planning Authority has a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place within Milton Keynes. Possible funding options such as S175 can be discussed with the Director of Growth and Strategy.
Action: Philip Markham
The Lead Officer, PAC Service explained that the County Council has maintained the current archaeological level into 2016 which is commended. Archaeology also generates an income and met its targets for 2014/15. Looking at possible opportunities to increase income is strongly recommended which includes looking at a wider level across planning, the flood team and archaeology and establishing a baseline to ensure a common approach across the County Council. Could this be brought to the Forum for discussion?
Brett Thorn, Keeper of Archaeology, Bucks County Museum explained that every commercial excavation includes the cost for archiving and data entry on the system. Could this principle be extended?
Other parts of environment services such as ecology receive funding from District Councils.
A Member said that Arla Dairy, Aston Clinton has submitted an application for an anaerobic digester. The installation of a digester would involve major works in one corner of the site. The Archaeological Planning Officers have seen the application and have responded to it. It is not clear whether the site will be predetermined or if it will go straight to excavation.