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PPS5 Go Mad in Chester
HER Forum Summer Meeting, Grosvenor Museum, Chester, 7th July 2010   

View from the Chair
 Chris Webster, Somerset County Council HER Manager
 
Hopefully everyone had a good time in Chester and returned safely home. I certainly "enjoyed" my first chairing of the meeting and would like to thank all the speakers for their presentations and for keeping to time. I hope you enjoyed the mix of topics as a change from the themed meetings that have predominated in the past. The next meeting will be themed on the topics of data standards, thesauri and digital archiving that generated discussion on the forum earlier in the year.
 
These are probably the "interesting times" mentioned in the old Chinese curse - on the one hand there are the changes envisioned in the Heritage Bill and partly implemented in PPS5 with an increased importance for HERs in England, on the other the financial situation suggests that this increase will have to be accommodated with reduced, and possible very reduced, resources. These, I suspect, will really start to be apparent next year but we are already having to be careful where we hold HER Forum meetings to reduce the costs and for this reason the next meeting will be held in Birmingham. It has been very pleasant visiting the more far-flung parts of Britain but I suspect that we will have to concentrate on central, easily (and cheaply) accessible venues in the future.
 
Finally, I'd like to emphasise that HER Forum is your meeting so we'd like to hear of any topics that you'd like to see discussed, speakers you'd like to hear and, most of all, things that you have to say to your colleagues. The next meeting after Birmingham will probably be unthemed so if there's anything you want to get off your chest or show off, let us know.

 

Scanning the GLHER Report Library…and then how to use it
Krysia Truscoe, Greater London Historic Environment Record Officer

In March this year we completed the scanning of our report library (about 6800 reports) as a first step towards changing to being an HER from the 1st April.  While the first stage of getting quotations and getting it started was more labour intensive than I had imagined, the actual scanning was quite straightforward.  The next step was what to do with our new digital resource.  We have had to think again about copyright law, change the way that we process new reports and work with our archaeological advisers on changing their guidance to contractors.  It seems to be working so far and visitors to the HER seem impressed by having digital reports to consult and like the ease of being able to print out a colour image, in colour!  A lot of HERs are going through the same process (and many are far more advanced) and it would be interesting to compare our experience with others.
 

Heritage Assets & HERs under PPS5
Rebecca Clark, English Heritage Policy and Guidance Delivery Manager
 
PPS5 encourages a proactive approach to exposing, exploiting, enhancing, extending the life of and, most importantly, enjoying the value and significance of our heritage. It seeks to encourage investment of all kinds, including economic, social and community.

All interpretations of the PPS must be taken in the light of the Government Objectives that preface the document. These objectives outline what Government seeks to achieve through this policy. Any reading of the text that does not achieve these aims is therefore a wrong interpretation.

The PPS refers generally to information storage, management and sharing, and specifically to HERs, throughout. Important references for HERs include:

• HE2.2 Local planning authorities should either maintain or have access to a historic environment record.

• HE6.1 Local planning authorities should require an applicant to provide a description of the significance of the heritage assets affected and the contribution of their setting to that significance…As a minimum the relevant historic environment record should have been consulted.

• HE7.1 In decision-making local planning authorities should seek to identify and assess the particular significance of any element of the historic environment that may be affected by the relevant proposal (including by development affecting the setting of a heritage asset) taking account of…the historic environment record and similar sources of information.

• HE12.2 The process of investigating the significance of the historic environment, as part of plan-making or development management, should add to the evidence base for future planning and further the understanding of our past. Local planning authorities should make this information publicly available, including through the relevant historic environment record.

Government is aware that not all HERs are at the same level. The duties given to HERs in the PPS are to a degree aspirational. English Heritage is committed to helping achieve this aspiration and making all HERs PPS compliant.

Please send any questions or comments to rebecca.clark@english-heritage.org.uk.

 
Supporting Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities through HER data
Mark Dunkley, English Heritage Maritime Designation Advisor

Inshore fisheries and environmental management arrangements were strengthened by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 so that more effective action can be taken to conserve marine ecosystems and help achieve a sustainable and profitable fisheries sector. As part of modernising inshore fisheries management in England, Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) have been established which are to be formed of representatives from unitary and upper tier local authorities.
 
Here, English Heritage has recommended to Defra that, as a general principle, provision must be made to enable wide consideration of the marine environment to be realised, inclusive of historic and archaeological interests, as directed by Part 6 (management of inshore fisheries) of the Act.
 
In particular, we have further recommended that representatives of constituent county and unitary local authorities appointed to IFCAs seek advice from the appropriate Local Government Archaeological Officer in relation to historic and archaeological interests.
 
IFCA districts will cover the English coast out to six nautical miles and include estuaries where IFCAs will be responsible for sea fisheries management. In order for Local Authorities to fully suport the wider environmental responsibilities of IFCAs, advice should be sought from the LG Archaeological Officer who, in turn, is informed by an integrated HER inclusive of marine data.
 
There is much still to be done, and in this respect, we are in contact with the ALGAO Maritime Committee and are looking to develop a corporate position statement on inshore HERs.
 

Concord and Discord: Joining up Somerset’s Heritage Databases
Naomi Payne, Somerset County Council HER Officer

This presentation details a recent project to concord three Somerset heritage databases, the Historic Environment Record (HER), the Museum Service database and the Archive Service catalogue, in terms of the information recorded about archaeological archives.
In Somerset, the finds component of each archaeological archive goes to the Somerset County Museum and the paper elements go to the Somerset Record Office, which is one important reason for proper cross-referencing. Problems had been encountered by local contractors who were trying to locate old excavation archives.
Procedures have now been formalised to make sure that the correct information is recorded about the archive on each of the three databases. Archaeological units must obtain an HER Primary Record Number (PRN) and Somerset County Museum accession number for each project before it commences, as a condition of the sign off of Written Schemes of Investigation (WSIs).
The project has the following benefits:
- HER enhancement (e.g. creating event records for projects that had accession numbers, but had previously not been recorded on the HER, creating event records for older excavations that had never been separated from the monument record).
- The new guidelines should henceforth result in museum accession numbers being added to skeleton HER event records as we go along.
- There’s now an easy way to search for projects where the report is outstanding.
- There has been improved communication and joining up thinking between the three parts of the Somerset Heritage Service.
- When individuals want to consult an archaeological archive in the future, it should now, in theory, be easy to locate it using the online HER.

Local Listings: The Role of an HER
Chris Wardle, City Archaeologist, Leicester City Council

Need we include local listings in our HERs?

The recently published PPS5 has much to say regarding about the crucial role of HERs within an Historic Environment service, but makes no specific mention of Local Lists. The PPS, however, merely aims to set-out the framework for how the historic environment should be treated within the planning system. The detail is to be provided in a series of guidance documents, the first of these was published at the same time as the PPS. This initial guidance document, the Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide, recommends that planning authorities ‘maintain a ‘local list’ of heritage assets’. They should do so ‘in partnership with the local community’ and ‘on the basis of objective criteria’. A specific guidance document is to be anticipated. So the answer to my question surely has to be ‘yes’.

The Situation in Leicester

I cannot claim that the current situation in Leicester is perfect:  Currently Leicester has a set of locally listed buildings which can be identified on the City Council’s web site and in a document known as the Building Conservation Directory. Yet this set of local listings is flawed. At the moment it is nothing more than a set of addresses of those unlisted buildings that various conservation officers have considered attractive. In most cases all we know about these buildings is they were considered attractive, and as a result there is no information that can be included in the City HER. Buildings are the only kind of heritage assets included in the list. There has been no community involvement in drawing up the list and no objective criteria for inclusion in the list.

How is Leicester trying to tackle the issue?

When we began this exercise it was assumed that ‘local listing’ would only cover buildings or monuments that fell short of the criteria that made them eligible for listing.  The starting point was to establish a set of objective criteria against which non-designated assets could be assessed.

Leicester City HER has evolved from a ‘traditional’ Sites and Monuments Record. It was based, for the most part, on museum accession records. Buildings, if they were included at all, tended to be those with self-evident historical associations (e.g. mediaeval churches and the town’s guildhall). The only other significant bodies of data on buildings were the records of the local industrial archaeology society and references in a published volume on industrial archaeology. Architecture and artistic interest was not covered in any meaningful way.

A couple of years ago I set about systematically adding all Listed Buildings to the HER. Yet there are ten of thousands of buildings in the city only around 400 of them are designated. So there has to be much that is of architectural and artistic interest that is unlisted.

Like many of those who maintain an HER, I am no expert on maters architectural and artistic. So it was necessary to consult one of my Conservation Officer colleagues to see how this glaring omission might be rectified. We soon established that we had not managed to keep any records of the old grade III listing (which would have had no objective criteria). As a result we had to start from scratch.

My colleague pointed out that the majority of Leicester’s Listed Buildings were the best examples of the work of the more skilled local architects. So we set about identifying who the better local architects were, by examination of the Listed Building descriptions and the county volume of Pevsner. Once we had established this leading, we trawled the county archaeological and historical journal, local directories and volumes of The Builder to identify what other building they had designed. This provided us with an extensive list of non-designated buildings. To this we were able to add a list of buildings associated with notable local personages. In Leicester such notables included, not only the usual politicians, industrialist and preachers (who were identified though the VCH, the county journal and local directories) but also a couple of people best known for their deformities. The best known of these was Joseph Merrick, a man with severe deformities, who was exhibited as a curiosity whose tragic life was depicted in the 1980 film The Elephant Man. It was possible to identify a building, then a shop near the city centre, as the music hall where Merrick made his first public appearance.

The PPS

Closer examination of the advice accompanying the PPS raises a number of additional possibilities, as its clear that a local list can include all kinds of local asset, not just the kind of structure that might be suitable for listing. Parks and gardens, and battlefields would certainly be eligible, as perhaps might areas of known archaeological deposits.

Confession

Having said all of the above, I would like to make a couple of closing points:

The first is that I would be the first to acknowledge that it is far easier to identify the better local architects and come up with a exhaustive list of notable local people in a relatively modest sized urban area with a single centre, than it would be in a large, mainly rural, county, especially where the county lies next to a large metropolis.

The second is that it is far easier to make this kind of progress where one’s colleagues are willing and able to offer their assistance to improve the HER. In my case I received a good deal of assistance from our Heritage Officer. Whilst he was in post made great strides towards gathering the necessary data. However, he moved on early this year and lack of time on behalf of other Conservation colleagues has meant that progress has slowed considerably.    


ALGAO GIS Project
Sarah Poppy, Suffolk County Council Archaeological Officer and Paul Cuming, Kent County Council HER Manager

The ALGAO GIS survey was undertaken in October 2009 to January 2010 to investigate recording practice and data standards in English HERs.  This research was funded under English Heritage’s HEEP project.  The use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has become widespread amongst English HERs since the mid 1990s, with HERs creating, receiving, managing and disseminating ever more spatial data.  However, supporting data standards and recording conventions have not developed at the same rate.  European and UK government policy has stressed the need for the creation and management of spatial datasets that are collected once, fit for use, and managed for access and reuse. 

A detailed questionnaire was designed and disseminated to the HER community.  54 responses were received, representing 65% of English HERs.  The questions explored aspects of digitising practice, the adoption of relevant metadata standards within the HER and its parent authority, data exchange between HER and archaeological contractors and the sharing of GIS data with local planning authorities within the HER’s area of coverage.  Drawing on analysis of the results, a series of detailed recommendations were made.  These include the need for good practice guidance to be drawn up on how HERs manage and maintain their GIS datasets, as well as with practical guidance on implementing metadata standards, to enable HERs to maximise the potential use and sharing of these datasets.   Above all the results of the survey provided a detailed snapshot of GIS usage in English HERs, and it was recommended that the survey is repeated at regular intervals.  It is hoped that the report of the project findings will be available shortly.


SHINE Update
Sarah Poppy, Suffolk County Council Archaeological Officer and Crispin Flower, exeGesIS SDM Ltd

The SHINE (Selected Heritage Inventory for Natural England) project is working towards a single, nationally consistent dataset of historic environment sites for management under Environmental Stewardship Schemes.  The dataset (currently in its fourth release and comprising over 20,000 sites) is compiled and maintained by local authority Historic Environment Records, and once validated to ensure it meets the required data standard, is submitted at regular intervals to Natural England to feed into the Entry Level Scheme application process.  The data is also provided to farmers, land agents and other interested parties at www.myshinedata.org.uk.

With funding from Natural England, 2010 has seen the enhancement of the SHINE website to include the following:

• Web Mapping and Web Feature Services are implemented for use by HERs and project partners.
• Workflow to enable HERs to upload and validate their own datasets online.
• Separate logon for Natural England and partners to release datasets only
• Mechanism for SHINE coordinator to ‘release’ dataset to Natural England.

The presentation led HERs through the new workflow and functionality.  Further information is available from the Shine Coordinator, Sarah Poppy (sarah.poppy@suffolk.gov.uk) and feedback is welcomed.