Fulford battlefied under threat

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Supervisory failures


Summary of published report

Archaeology work
Precautionary principle
Supervisory failures
Site's potential

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4. Supervision and quality of work

The criticism that follows is directed at the city council officers and elected representatives. It is recognised that they feel their powers to affect a development are limited. The issues are aired here in the hope that this inquiry will empower those charged with supervising planning to be more robust when dealing with large developers. The planning papers do not give the impression of a team that was in charge of the process but were just administering a set of complex rules without the necessary resources.

4.1. As stated earlier, there is much excellent and professional work in the various reports by the investigative archaeologists but almost nothing in this work that is relevant to identifying a battlefield. The question asked by this section is why this level of professional execution and supervision was not applied to investigate the battlefield when they were advised it was required in plenty of time for the work to be undertaken?

  • 4.1.1. The developers themselves identified the area as the likely site of the battle but this investigation did not form a part of the scheme of work. Repeating the claim that they have done extensive work fails to address the issue of relevance. No work relevant to the identification of the battlefield has been undertaken in spite of repeated request and extensive, expert advice on what was required. Why not?

4.2. Many detailed criticisms were offered of the documentation produced by the developers and officers over the years. This is one example.

  • 4.2.1. The city archaeologist criticises the use of Snorri’s sagas. ‘This is unfortunate’ he claims, ‘as the account has been used as the main evidence for describing and interpreting the course of the battle’ by the battlefield society. (2.1)
    • Scholarship does not accept this rejection of this valuable source of information. Kelly DeVries published the most recent and authoritative assessment of the literature of 1066. (The Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066 Kelly DeVries Boydel 184380272 1999) He quotes the complier of the Heimskringla, Snoori, who opens his chronicle with the following observation on his own methodology. ‘In this book I let be written old narratives about rulers …which I have heard from well-informed men, also certain histories of previous generations as they were taught to me.’
    • Snorri also encapsulates the dilemma of every historian when he recognizes the need to exercise his judgment. ‘And although we do not know the truth of these, we know that old, learned men judged such to be true.’ But, referring to the many tales surrounding king Harald of Norway, Snorri notes ‘these came not as history and these were not included, because we will not put unsubstantiated stories into this book.’ The important point is that those recording the sagas are open about the approach they are adopting. This allows the reader to assess the credibility and modern scholarship finds them excellent sources.
    • It is also worth noting that the complier of the Saga most extensively quoted on the battle at the ford was what we would now call the ‘lord chief justice’ and he had attended conferences with other Nordic law officers. It is inappropriate to dismiss the evidence in this and other sagas as mere hearsay. Much stronger criticism can be aimed at the Anglo-Saxon chronicle where we know that there was censorship, bias and transcription errors and which, frankly, qualifies as the most boring writing.
    • What was particularly telling was that when we understood the terrain, the description of the battle provided by the sagas made even more sense. The scientific method of assessment would allow the hypothesis about the location of the battle to be raised to the status of a theory which is ready to be tested.
    • The report given to the elected members was therefore flawed. The city’s archaeologist that was wrong to focus upon the literature and to ignore all of the other work that was being produced.
  • 4.2.2. The story of what is called the second phase of the work in September 2003 is also worth investigating. On 13 Jan 2002, following a direction from the planning committee, some extra archaeological work was mandated. It was agreed that at a site meeting and confirmed in writing that:
    • Locals would be informed
    • Exploration of other parts of site would be looked at when proper funding had been obtained
    • Chas Jones would be informed by MAP when survey was to be conducted.
    • None of these conditions were fulfilled in spirit or in detail. The MAP letter of 4 Oct 2002 to John Oxley ignores the agreed plan and suggests four trench sites along the proposed road, replacing the previous agreement.
    • When I asked Anne Finney of MAP why the location of the investigations had been moved I was told the other areas chosen were too wet or inaccessible. Neither reason was true. Subsequent inspection of the planning files indicated that the trench sites were not those previously agreed. They had ignored our agreement and had selected different sites. I was not informed until after the work had taken place.
    • This element of the work has been portrayed as work related to the battlefield but it was not. The work was a further small investigation along the line of the proposed road.
    • It would be tedious to tell all the similar tales so this one should stand as an example of not just the lack of cooperation but also the attempts to mislead those of us who wanted to see the location of the battle properly investigated.
  • 4.3. The entire subject of battlefield investigation has moved forward quite dramatically in recent years. The criticisms raised here must be seen in this light.
  • 4.3.1. The failure has been one on the part of the developers and the supervisory regime to take note of these even though they were alerted to the progress being made.
  • The first international battlefield conference was held at the British Army Museum in London in 2000.
  • English Heritage has launched a project to develop a methodology for investigating battlefields.
  • Two universities have begun undergraduate courses on ‘conflict archaeology’.
  • Meanwhile, there were at least four television series about investigating battlesite which might be taken as indicative of public interest.
  • 4.3.2. So the criticism is that the responsible bodies failed to listen and take account of these developments.
  • 4.3.3. In particular there was the report from Glenn Foard (12.1) in 2003 which over 14 pages lists the work required to investigate a battlefield and the places where the developers were wrong in drawing their conclusions.
  • 4.3.4. The city archaeologist, writing to English Heritage in September 2003 says ‘These two phases of work have produced no archaeological evidence for the battle’. This statement is open to the criticism that no relevant project of battlefield research was undertaken. Nor was the work conducted on what we have come to recognise as the core battlefield. Information, time and resources were available to conduct the work but the opportunity was not taken. This can hardly be seen as action consistent with PPG16:8 by the planners or the developer.

4.4. Writing on 24 May 2004 English Heritage says the problem is with the specification of the work and they ‘remain ready to advise all parties should further evaluation or assessment work be required’. But a few days later, on 27 May 04 Roger Armistead, the senior planning officer at the time said there is no need to discuss ‘Fulford Bridge Battlefield’(sic) because the positions of all parties are known. The battlefield society was not at any stage asked to take part in any of the discussions which might have helped to inform the senior planning officer.

  • 4.4.1. So when the council team leader is writing in May 2004 to say that he is ‘ not proposing another meeting to discuss the archaeological evidence…for this to be a battlefield site’ it was done without looking at any of the evidence from FBS. It is very hard to understand why this was done. This paper has identified archaeology and ecology as two areas where the planners chose not to inform themselves. Other areas where ignorance was preferred to information will be discussed later. Why did they adopt this approach?

4.5. In spite of all of the criticism levelled at the officers, there is evidence that there exists a desire to save the battlefield from destruction. Condition 10 of the outline planning permission says ‘No development shall take place until the applicant has submitted a detailed archaeological mitigation strategy (covering excavation, watching brief, metal detecting survey, analysis, publication, archive deposition and public involvement) and this has been agreed in writing with the local planning authority. The reason given is: ‘This development will have an affect on important archaeological deposits which are preserved within the site.’ The danger is that the plan will be seen to have too much momentum to be stopped therefore it is argued that this access route must be ruled out now.

4.6. Also, as a part of the 63 page report that went to the planning committee, the summary of the archaeology states: ‘The results of studies into Battle of Fulford will have an impact on the development and detailed applications will not be approved until the findings are known and evaluated’. The many arguments advanced to argue that the Germany Beck route should be ruled out now and not have to rely on an evaluation procedure in which there is little confidence.

4.7. To conclude this sub-section it is worth quoting the planning guidance on how known threats should be dealt with if they are later discovered.

“Developers and local authorities should take into account archaeological considerations and deal with them from the beginning of the development control process. Where local planning authorities are aware of a real and specific threat to a known archaeological site as a result of the potential exercise of permitted development rights (as set out in Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1988) they may wish to consider the use of their powers under Article 4 of that Order to withdraw those rights and to require specific planning permission to be obtained before development can proceed. Most such directions require the Secretary of State's approval, either before they come into effect or within six months of being made, unless they relate solely to a listed building. Further advice on the use of Article 4 Directions is given in Appendix D to DOE Circular 22/88. (ppg16: 18)”

  • 4.7.1. This makes it clear that the developers and the authorities should have taken account of the desk top study identifying this as the site. Furthermore, there is a clear procedure to take account of new finds and withdraw rights granted. This should have discussed as an option with the developer to require them to make provision for an alternative access should the access route be recognised as an important national monument. Again, we see the rules not being applied because the development has not allowed for another access. It is not acceptable to ignore the guidance simply because a bad plan has been put forward.
  • 4.7.2. The charge is that the parties have failed to follow the recommended path. It should have been made clear to the developers that there was a risk that they could loose their single access road when the full assessment work had been undertaken. Since this work will take several years to complete and evaluate, and because the development is dependent on this one access route, it is impossible to believe that the advice in PPG16 will be followed.
  • 4.7.3. A defective design which has made the development so vulnerable must not be allowed to use its deficiencies to protect it from rigorous scrutiny. Should this route be accepted for now, it must be made clear that the permission could be withdrawn if the full investigation warrant the protection of the Germany Beck site as the battlefield of 1066.

4.8. PPG15 discusses the case where a new road is deemed necessary. It imposes an evaluation on the planning authority.

  • “5.5 If a new route is unavoidable, authorities should initially identify any features of the historic environment - including parks, gardens, battlefields and archaeological sites as well as buildings and areas - and evaluate their importance.”
  • 4.8.1. There have been retrospective attempts to justify the choice of route but they have relied up denying that this is the battle site. But the injunction is clear. The planners should have identified the battlefield from the developer’s desktop study when the route was proposed and this they failed to do.

4.9. There is a serious flaw in the logic that underpins any reliance on a development plan.

  • 4.9.1. The plan, or in York’s case, a draft plan, can only take account of existing knowledge. The plan pre-supposes that environmental and historic details are already known. In fact, sites are only investigated when a proposal is put forward. To suppose that any development plan overrides the detailed consideration that must follow once a proposal is made must be wrong.
  • 4.9.2. Logic dictates that a plan cannot therefore define zones where permission will be automatically granted. It simply shows places where various activities can be contemplated. After that, the detailed investigations that are meticulously set out in thousands of pages of law, regulations, guidance and codes of practice must be applied. We have listed here some of the places where this has not happened.
  • 4.9.3. Therefore it is impossible for the developer or the officers to rely on the zoning in a plan as authority to justify a development. The draft plan is nothing more than a statement of intent.
  • 4.9.4. The Fulford battlesite provides a good example of the dangers when planners start zoning. There was no prior knowledge to inform those devising the plan although one might have expected some official to have consulted the sites and monuments record. It is absurd to claim that once the location is selected for a development, all of the provisions of the planning process should not be applied. A plan derived in ignorance should not have precedence over an informed choice.

4.10. The impact on the supervision by different local authorities concerned will now be explored.

  • 4.10.1. Original applications had roads that emerged to the north of the site which impacted the planning zone controlled by York. The revised access route was one that would avoid York roads where there was already concern about the traffic flows. Attempts have been made to locate the earlier documents but they were not transferred to the city and Selby District Council have destroyed the planning files that were no longer relevant.
  • 4.10.2. One effect of this ‘false start’ was that the focus of the archaeology was away from Germany Beck itself. The proposed access road still shows signs of being an afterthought as it does not flow into the heart of the estate with the homes clustered round it but instead is appended rather like the tail of a tadpole.
  • 4.10.3. This application has suffered because it was transferred when York became a unitary authority. Although the application was technically a fresh one, officers and councillors have repeatedly claimed that they are bound to honour undertakings given by Selby DC.
  • 4.10.4. In their summaries at the Planning meeting in May 2005, several councillors claimed that the incomplete planning processes undertaken by Selby were nevertheless binding on York. It is impossible to comprehend how this can possibly be true. Either the planning process was in the power of York or the decision had already been taken by Selby. If the later proposition is true it makes the work undertaken over the years by COYC a sham. The inquiry should therefore try to clarify this issue and then discount all decisions made under this misapprehension.

4.11. There has been a lack of any effective visual impact assessment with neither static nor dynamic imagery. The loss of visual amenity cannot therefore be assessed by those who are likely to be affected. PPS22 outlines the sort of material that should be provided for the public. None of this material has been produced for the benefit of the public.

4.12. Writing to the planning officers in October 2002 I was asking about the duty of care.

“I have been so alarmed at the continued inaccuracies and questionable assumptions made in the application that I sought legal opinions. I wanted to know if the developers and their agents have a due of care to report accurately.

“I first consulted one of COYC’s legal officers who was unwilling to be quoted. Their opinion however was supported by one of a senior, York solicitor who said that no duty of care is attached to the claims made in an application. This is an unacceptable situation.

“In the absence of such a legal obligation on the developers, which I am amazed does not underpin the whole basis of planning law, I suggest that independent experts be called in to assess the impartiality and accuracy of the information given in the application.”

4.13. There is a professional body that can impose standards and discipline archaeological contractors. This is the Institute of Field Archaeologist’s or IFA. But there is no professional body to which practicing archaeologists must belong before they can undertake work. The developer’s archaeological contactors were not listed as members. This is not to say that they are not capable or imply that they do not operate with integrity. What it does say that they belong to no body that has the power to impose discipline on them.

  • 4.13.1. “The Institute of Field Archaeologists (see Annex 1 for address), publishes a Directory of members, which developers may wish to consult.” (PPG16:21) While the planning guidance does not obligate developers to use IFA registered members, the implication is to encourage use of regulated firms. The issue is to who can one complains if the work does not conform to the levels of independence set out in their code. Had there been such a body, a complaint procedure would have been started as it is felt there were grounds for a complaint.
  • 4.13.2. It is important to note that those undertaking the various specialised assessments in areas such as archaeology, flooding, traffic or the ecology should be acting independently even though their services are paid by developer. This is not a good system as competitive pressures apply to these specialist contractors. A much better system would to have the planning authorities commission these assessments. In the absence of such a provision it is important that this inquiries satisfies itself that all of the reports would stand peer review. The inquiry might feel that it is appropriate to undertake such an assessment.
  • 4.13.3. Quality control rests with the council officers. COYC employs one, highly respected archaeologist. The workload in a city such as York is hard to imagine. Comparable cities such as Chester, Lincoln and Norwich have heritage teams. The CA is forced to work within the constraints imposed by resources and problems that result are noted throughout this proof. It is not a problem with the officers but with the management and the resources for which the elected representatives must be held accountable.
  • 4.13.4. The public inquiry should attempt to establish who is going to shoulder responsibility for the duty of care owed to the public for any inaccurate, misleading or inadequate statements.

4.14. Attempts have been made to discover if the city council is operating under outside pressure which might account for the failures in due process that have been listed above. (This is absolutely not to imply that anybody has acted improperly – The external pressures are those imposed by the operation of local government administration).

4.14.1. The city is one of only two planning authorities that did not qualify for Planning Development Grants in 2004 according to the ODPM. These were, in effect, prizes for the speedy handling of applications. We should be told if there are monies promised or possible penalties pending. These would be a factor in the planning process if financial pressures were being applied.

4.14.2. A new primary school has been constructed at Fulford using PFI funding in 2006. The school has been built to accommodate the expected influx from the Germany Beck development and has spare classrooms. This too could have influenced the position of the council if there were financial penalties if the school intake did not expand as expected.

4.14.3. It has not been possible so far to obtain the information required to assess whether the officers and elected officials were operating under the pressures outlined. It is hoped that this information will be forthcoming in time for the inquiry hearing.

4.15. Many serious failures in the assessment of this application have been highlighted and there are more to come. The process of taking advice from the statutory consultees was undertaken by the officers but there is no evidence in the council’s papers that any attempt to discuss the issues or to influence the development. The officers attended to minutiae and neglected the big issues. The application was competently administered within the self-imposed guidance but was not in any sense planned with all of the iterative processed that the term ‘planning’ implies. This development was imposed. The only way forward is to cancel this application and allow a better process, advised by all that has been discovered, to run again from the beginning.

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The site was updated  14 June 2011