Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

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roger860
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Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by roger860 » Wed Mar 12, 2014 2:39 pm

I am investigating (unauthorised) changes that have been made to a Scheduled Monument in Ashton Keynes, North Wiltshire – Halls Close, Scheduled Monument 1013197.

I have been unable to find any listings or details of Scheduled Monument Consents in Wiltshire on the internet: submitted; agreed; rejected; etc. Is such information available?

The last email that I had from English Heritage stated:

"This matter is being progressed toward a resolution. However, we would ask you to bear in mind that this issue is between the landowner and ourselves, and it is not in the public domain. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to comment any further."

In principle this does not seem right to me, and I am keen to look into this in more detail!

Any help would be appreciated.

Roger

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AlanS
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Re: Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by AlanS » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:56 pm

I suspect this is one of those areas where they have full control. The EH website doesn't really give any clues, though there may be some idea of the process on the application form. See https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/pro ... ssion/smc/ as a starting point, though you may already have been through those hoops.

Would a Freedom of Information request help elicit any information from them? Juamei here can advise about the FoI process if you need it - requests have to be worded just so, to get the answer to the question you really want to ask. Although "commercial sensitivity" is a common cop-out to such requests.

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juamei
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Re: Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by juamei » Wed Mar 12, 2014 4:09 pm

I think Scheduled Monument consent should be a matter of public record. Have you used www.whatdotheyknow.com?
English Heritage is known by a different name there; https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/english_heritage but this is their page. A request asking for:

"All documentation relating to any consent given by English Heritage to permit changes to the Scheduled Monument, Halls Close, Ashton Keynes, or its environs after 1/1/2005 (for instance)
I also would like a copy of all correspondence between English Heritage and any third party relating to this monument after the 1/1/2005"

The date is arbitrary but enables them to find the info quicker.

roger860
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Re: Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by roger860 » Thu Mar 13, 2014 9:35 am

Thanks for your help. I've sent the following request via the https://www.whatdotheyknow.com site.

There seems to be a general problem in relation to finding information on Scheduled Monument Consents. Given that EH want pubic support to keep an eye on Monuments, and actually have a campaign for this support, then the information should be in the public domain.

Roger

Damage to Scheduled Monument 1013197 , Halls Close, Ashton Keynes

I would like to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act
for:
1. All documentation (including emails) relating to any consent given by English Heritage to permit changes to the Scheduled Monument (1013197) , Halls Close, Ashton Keynes, or its environs after 1/10/12
2. A copy of all correspondence (including emails) between English Heritage and any third party relating to this monument after the 1/10/12
3. Have any Scheduled Monument Consents (SMC) been granted since 1/10/12?
4. When were any SMCs granted?
5. What are the terms of any SMCs?
6. Was an offence committed by work carried out before an SMC was granted?
7. Are English Heritage responsible for enforcement, and if not who is?
8. Has a prosecution taken place?
9. Is a prosecution pending?
10. Will any enforcement action be taken?

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AlanS
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Re: Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by AlanS » Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:45 pm

Looks good. Please let us know what response you get. There should be a same/next day acknowledgement, then a full response within a set timeframe (21 days?)

roger860
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Re: Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by roger860 » Thu May 08, 2014 12:24 pm

For information:

Full response was due by 11th April!

To date, in response to points 1 and 2, I have only received (email 30/4/14 !)a selection of heavily redacted correspondence from the Information Rights team, which provides little or no information with regard to the key issues of damage and the potential reinstatement of the Scheduled Monument. They appear to be hiding behind 'confidential legal issues'.
They also stated that the SW office is supposed to be responding to my questions 3-10.

7th May 2014: I have written to the Regional Director, South West office asking him to address the FoI request, and get some useful response.

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Re: Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by AlanS » Fri May 09, 2014 6:09 pm

I suspect this is one of those things that requires perseverance. The fact that so much is redacted suggests that there's something they don't want you to know, so keep pushing!

roger860
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Re: Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by roger860 » Wed May 21, 2014 2:18 pm

21 May 2014:

Response from English Heritage 19th May 2014 to my letter of 7th May 2014.

The SW Director now anticipates a response by the beginning of June !

Dear Mr Britton,

I must apologise for an oversight on our part in not replying to parts 3-10 of your original FOI request.

Although our FOI response did not occur until the end of April you are quite correct in expecting a prompt response on these other matters.

We are looking into the points you raise as a priority and I hope to have the information ready for you by the beginning of June.

Please accept my sincere apologies once again.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Vines
Planning and Conservation Director SW

roger860
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Re: Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by roger860 » Sat Jun 28, 2014 4:20 pm

Please see below, the response from English Heritage 6th June 2014 to my letter of 7th May 2014.

From my perspective, in overview, there has been a change of landowner for part of the Scheduled Monument:
‘Earthworks of a Medieval ringwork and bailey.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60 with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular significance to our understanding of the period.’
(English Heritage)

The new landowner has fenced off a segment of the Medieval ringworks without Scheduled Monument Consent and got away with it, through ‘complex and lengthy legal correspondence’. The appearance of the Monument within the Scheduled area has been changed quite dramatically.

What is the point of having a designated Scheduled Monument area?

Why isn't the whole Scheduled Monument Consent process in the public domain, as is the normal Planning process?


Dear Mr Britton

FOI request 13th March 2014 – Damage to scheduled monument 1013197 Halls Close, Ashton Keynes

Our planning and conservation Director Andrew Vines has asked me to respond to parts 3-10 of your original FOI request. I would like again to apologise to you fro the delay in making this response.

As our FOI team have noted in their response to you, parts 3-10 of your request were referred to the SW office as there were data protection implications, given that the issues related to legal correspondence between EH and private householders. We have a duty to ensure that an individual’s legal confidentiality is respected where it is appropriate to do so.

In respect of your enquiry points:


3. Have any Scheduled Monument Consents (SMC) been granted since 1/10/12?
One SMC has been granted for works affecting a property within the scheduled area. The works are described as: ‘Remove 2 mounds of topsoil and small pile of concrete blocks with small bison bucket machine (no disturbance to monument and is purely above ground)’.

4. When were any SMCs granted?
This consent was granted on 24th March 2014

5. What are the terms of any SMCs?
I can share the general conditions of this consent but am advised that the specific information regarding the applicant is privileged as it relates to a private householder.
I can confirm that the Secretary of State is agreeable for the works to proceed
………(etc.)

6. Was an offence committed by work carried out before an SMC was granted?
There have been two instances, at separate households, where minor unauthorised works have been undertaken without first obtaining SMC. One case involved the partial construction of fences to enclose land obtained by the householder adjacent to their property, the other involved the unauthorized tipping of spoil from construction works upon land lying within the scheduled boundary. Unauthorised works are an offence under Section 2(2) of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

7. Are English Heritage responsible for enforcement, and if not who is?
English Heritage are responsible for investigating potential offences under the 1979 Act, affecting Scheduled Monuments.

8. Has a prosecution taken place?
No

9. Is a prosecution pending?
No

10. Will any enforcement action be taken?
In both of the cases mentioned above English Heritage undertook a thorough investigation of the circumstance in which the unauthorised works took place.

In the case involving the fences, a complex and lengthy legal correspondence eventually allowed us to understand the full circumstances in which the works took place, and to assess any harm that may have occurred to the archaeology of the monument. We were able to determine that a basic error in the conveyancing process during the sale of the land led to a misunderstanding over the extent of the Scheduled area. Additionally it was determined that the driven fence post had caused little or no harm to the archaeology of the monument. The householder now fully understands the extent of the Scheduled area, the restrictions on the use of their land within it and their responsibilities under the 1979 Act.

In the case of the unauthorised tipping…………(etc). Following an SMC application, this spoil was removed under archaeological supervision…………..
(etc)

When investigating case of unauthorised works, English Heritage has a duty for our approach to be proportionate to the scale of the works and the degree of harm they may have caused, if any. In both cases it was clear that there had been minor breaches of the 1979 Act, but that there had been mitigating circumstances, and that little or no harm had been caused to the Scheduled Monument. In such cases we have to consider whether a formal legal process would be in the public interest – these cases were not considered to breach the threshold for such action and so have been dealt with by formal cautions.

I trust that this response answers the points that you raise and once again I apologise for the delay in making this reply.

Yours sincerely

Phil McMahon
Inspector of Ancient Monuments

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juamei
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Re: Scheduled Monument Consents - accessibilty?

Post by juamei » Sun Jun 29, 2014 7:43 am

We were able to determine that a basic error in the conveyancing process during the sale of the land led to a misunderstanding over the extent of the Scheduled area.
And there is the crux of it. No way to prove the landowner knew their responsibilities if they weren't clearly told during conveyancing. The law requires the owner to know they are altering a scheduled monument. If EH/CPS can't show that the landowner knew, they never prosecute as far as I know.

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