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Any Future for the Past under Conservatives?

by Cllr Mike Eddy, Deal Town Council and Walmer Council

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, a Green Party member of the House of Lords, has joined the debate about the future of archaeological research and conservation.

Quoted in the September edition of British Archaeology, Baroness Jones says:

“The current exclusion of archaeology from the forthcoming Environment Bill must be challenged. Archaeology and heritage play important roles in shaping our landscapes, and are fundamentally entwined with the natural environment.”

The current debate has been kicked off by Sheffield University’s bizarre decision to close its internationally respected Archaeology Department. This has emphasised the potential impact of changes in the law through the Environment Bill and Government ideas for “streamlining” the planning system.

Environment Bill does highlight the principle of the polluter pays which is an advance but that principle is not extended to archaeology – and in archaeology the polluter is actually the destroyer.

Generally, it would seem that the present Conservative government is not keen to conserve our past, unless that past involves ministers comparing the size of their flags and vague references to “our great island story”.

The latest archaeological research is about understanding humanity and its diseases through ancient DNA; about understanding pre-industrial climates; and understanding sustainable forms of agriculture.

As we approach COP26 in Glasgow, it seems that the Conservative Government is against much of the research that might get us out of the climate emergency mess.

Note. British Archaeology is published six times a year by the Council for British Archaeology, the body which represents some 600 organisations involved in archaeology and well as several thousand individual professional and amateurs.