In June 2015 I attended a training session run by the CBA (Council for British Archaeology) for their Local Heritage Engagement Network (LHEN). The LHEN is a CBA project to support groups like ours by providing resources and advice as well as an opportunity for local groups to share knowledge and learn from each other.
The workshop was about advocacy and activism and the purpose of the event was to help local communities involved in protecting archaeology. This mainly relates to local authorities and planning decisions and the impact of the ongoing cuts to council services.
Some councils are cutting their archaeology posts and there is a danger that planning applications do not get assessed for archaeological impact as well as they should do – West Sussex being an example where this is already happening.
The director of the CBA – Mike Heyworth – took part, and there were several delegates from other archaeological societies, a BBC radio producer and a British Museum researcher present.
There was a presentation by the Archaeology Officer of Southwark Council, which highlighted all the important work that council archaeology services provide.
The Horsham Archaeology Group explained how they were fighting to protect archaeological sites in their district after their county archaeological service had been axed. And representatives of the ‘Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort’ campaign, told us about their struggles against the plans to build houses close to this important monument.
There was a lot of useful advice, but if Bucks CC are providing a decent service and planning applications are properly assessed we may not need this advice right now. However, we need to remain alert to potential changes, as if we hear that Bucks CC may be cutting their archaeological service then we could use this guidance to try and prevent damage being done.
AIM supports the work of LHEN and will follow its development. You can find out more on the LHEN website which includes a growing toolkit of information and guidance.