Environment & Development Services
City of York Council
St Leonards Place
8 March 2005
Germany Beck proposal
In a long conversation with your office this afternoon I was alarmed to discover that, regardless of the outcome of the extra archaeological work required before detailed planning permission is granted, any development of Germany Beck would proceed as planned. I cannot understand the logic of requiring extra archaeological work if the findings are not to be taken into account in the detailed plans.
The matter to which I refer is the imminent planning decision of the Germany Beck development. The access road for this proposal would bury the ditch that separated the two sides on 20 September 1066 and destroy the landscape of this nationally important battle.
The correct procedure must be to carry out all the archaeological investigations and then decide what development permissions will be granted. I note that the developers have prevented the Lottery backed Fulford Battlefield Society from conducting investigative work. You also have a long report which is a peer-review of the developerís archaeological report which was very severely criticised. I ask you to review the evidence. A relevant archaeological assessment has not yet been conducted and the developers have blocked attempts to carry out such an investigation.
But I am most alarmed that there is still a denial among your officers that Germany Beck is the site of the battle. I do not understand this. The developers, until the absurd claim in their current application, accepted Germany Beck as the site of the battle of Fulford. English Heritage in response to the developerís claim wrote to COYC asking them to accept that this is the site. Everybody accepts that proving a site of this antiquity is almost impossible, (no evidence has ever been found at Hastings), but that is quite different from claiming that the site is not there. The absence of proof is not the proof of absence. I will happily debate the evidence with anybody. I am not aware of any informed observer who does not accept this is the site and I would ask you to look at our website where we might have achieved the impossible be able to prove that this is indeed the site. (http://www.battleoffulford.org.uk/f_interpretation.htm)
In the light of the statement that any evidence found during the Ďmitigationí work will not change the planning permission, I really must insist that you address this issue and insist that all of the archaeology is undertaken before any planning application is considered.
On another matter, I have also had some consultations with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) on how the national interest can be represented in the planning process. They drew my attention to the planning conciliation procedures that local authorities were supposed to have. I have already written to COYC requesting this but have not received a reply. I understand that there is no such procedure in the city. I wonder if you would investigate this as the developers have refused to discuss the need to research the battlefield.
Such a conciliation process would expose developers, protesters and council officers to the same information. My feeling is that the present procedures gives the developer much greater access to your officers and that a conciliation procedure, as promoted by ODPM, would go some small way to make your officers and the developers aware of objections before the matter came forward for consideration by the elected representatives.
I have a final issue. I was surprised that no assessment of the economic benefit to the city of such a visitor attraction has been undertaken. When I enquired about this I was told that such responsibility would probably fall on a protester such as myself. I cannot accept that this is a sound judgement. It is not my job to work out the economic benefits to the city of an accessible attraction. This is a community asset. As the community administration, it is for the council to work out how much we are loosing by destroying this asset.
Although time is now short, can I urge to you undertake a study of the medium and long term benefits that the development of this amazing heritage resource could bring to the City. It is only 10 minutes walk from the MacArthur-Glen Park & Ride and enjoys extensive public access. Such an economic assessment must inform the debate about the granting of any planning permission and I am surprised that it is not an established part of the planning process.
Could I make it clear that I have nothing but praise for your officers who are informative and courteous. It is the process and procedures with which I find fault.
Finally, this story is going to become a matter of national importance very soon. I am concerned that my city should not look foolish because it had failed to address the important issues implicit in the control of our national heritage.
Please intervene in this matter. I am at a loss to understand how my city can consider burying such an important heritage site and how it intends to justify this action to the country when the procedures employed are so clearly flawed and lacking in logic.