Lis Dyson (Heritage Conservation Manager) was in attendance for this item.
1. Mrs Stewart (Director of Environment, Planning and Enforcement) introduced the report that set out the current priorities and future strategic direction of the Heritage Conservation Service. The report sought agreement for a KCC Member Archaeology Champion role be created and that both the existing Member Heritage Champion and the proposed Member Archaeology Champion form part of a Member Working Group to help inform the drafting of the Heritage Conservation Strategy.
2. Ms Dyson presented a series of slide that set out the current priorities and future strategies and responded to Members comments and questions as follows:
(a) With regard to the Highspeed CTRL excavation finds, Ms Dyson informed Members that the Kent County Council Conservation Team was working in conjunction with Sussex County Council to generate a proposal for a Deepstore Salt Mine in Cheshire which was a cost-effective solution to preserving unearthed artefacts. The identified Deepstore had been storing Cambridgeshire archaeological archives for a period of time and had established a good transfer system. The Conservation Team had also submitted an expression of interest to the Heritage National Lottery Fund Bid to help support the transference of artefacts in and out of Deepstore to display certain items of high interest at local museums/ pop up exhibitions. Ms Dyson confirmed that KCC had commissioned a conservation assessment of the Highspeed 1 Archive and that the team could progress with the bid.
(b) In response to the conservation of the Meopham and West Kingsdown windmills, Ms Dyson said that both sites required extensive work in order to transform them into a state of operation, however, this was beyond the allocated current capital programme spend. Emergency restoration work works were being carried out to make sure the windmills were weatherproof throughout the winter season to limit their deterioration. An expression of interest to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for £1.4m for the restoration of windmills had been submitted.
(c) Ms Dyson informed Members that the National Planning Policy Framework provided clear instruction to developers that they need to have regard to the historic environment and undertake both archaeological evaluation and excavation as mitigation or preservation. The Government’s approach wants to speed up the planning process which created potential issues regarding the pre-commencement conditions, however, the framework was in place to deal with the historical environment properly, providing that the Conservation team knew that the historical remains were there. In terms of unearthed artefacts, it was often more difficult to persuade developers to sign up to the S106 agreements as there may not have been storage facilities within the local area.
(d) The Conservation team worked in close liaison with English Heritage which looked after property and Historic England who were the Governments advisors on the historic environment.
(e) In response to comments regarding utility companies and sufficient charging, Ms Dyson informed Members that utility companies were not governed by the planning process and were dependent on various acts of parliament which did not contain the preferred regulations as set out within the National Planning Policy Framework. The team quite often relied on the good will of the utilities companies, however, acknowledged that this was an on-going problem that needed to be addressed.
(f) The Committee commended the work carried out by Mr Payne to help drive the strategic ambitions of the Conservation Service.
3. It was RESOLVED that:
(a) the information set out in the presentation and given in response to comments and questions be noted; and
(b) that Mr Ridgers be appointed as the KCC Member Archaeology Champion, and that both the existing Member Heritage Champion and the newly appointed Member Archaeology Champion form part of a Member Working Group to help inform the drafting of the Heritage Conservation Strategy,