City of York Council
1 January 2013
Dear Chief Executive
Battle of Fulford
I recently submitted a 34 point critique of the planning process as well as many detailed matters regarding the Germany Beck planning proposal addressing matters that are pending consideration by the Planning Committee in association with the Germany Beck application.
But since dispatching this critical appraisal (which is yet to appear on your planning website), I have been given the contemporary notes from two meetings between COYC and others in 2005 by a whistleblower. These meeting notes, and my subsequent research, alarmingly vindicate the criticisms I have made of the planning process.
· At the first meeting in February 2005, Mike Slater, John Oxley and Keith Emerick of English Heritage discussed the issue around the location of the battle of Fulford where I had recently noted all the parties that some possible physical evidence for the battle had been identified following the examination of the finds by York Archaeological Trust.
· The second meeting, the following month, also included Michael Courcier and Paula Ware representing the planning applicant. She explained the revised environmental which now reports the suggestion that Germany Beck is a 13-15th century drainage ditch.
These notes record that ‘a story’ was agreed based on the notion that Germany Beck did not exist in its present course in 1066. (See section 7 of my recent submission, or the paper I submitted to the planning officers in April 2005, for a complete refutation of this assertion. The key component of the ‘story’ could just as easily have been dismissed from the developer’s own hedge dating, their archaeological investigation (e.g. Neolithic finds beside the beck) and much geological data published by BGS or indeed a site visit.
I will seek to have all those who promoted an unsustainable version of the archaeology held to account and have already written to the Head of the Commission plus the Chief Executive of English Heritage: I am about to contact the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) to report the actions of their members and ask them to investigate any breaches of their code of conduct.
From the notes of these meetings it is also possible to confirm that there was a consensus that Germany Beck was the likely location of the battle of 1066. So some of the questions I am asking in my Freedom of Information(FOI) request seeks to understand on what basis, and on whose authority, this agreement to present a biased version of the evidence was entered into.
There really is no easy way to explain why planning officers and the applicants should have agreed to promote a flimsy fiction when confronted by uncomfortable facts. This is a very serious accusation whichever way it is approached. At its worst there is the possibility of conspiracy to misrepresent or mislead although it might equally be a simple matter of complacency, carelessness or incompetency. I already have a good picture but I want to complete my own investigation by gaining access to the documents or notes listed in my attached FOI request.
Part of the ‘story’, as revealed by the meeting notes, rehearses the reasons why they would not need to pursue the physical evidence provided for the battle. It is dispiriting to see how misleading claims has been so successfully promulgated through the planning system in defiance of the facts. The way so much valuable information has been suppressed during this planning application must call for a serious investigation within your organisation. While my focus here is on the failures to investigate the archaeology, my criticisms are much wider – You might for example note the failures of your own office and the COYC in respect of the water vole habitats that have been illegally destroyed through negligence. (See http://www.savefulford.org/v_chief_executive.htm)
Usurping the role of the elected members by not including any material that challenges the view officers have agreed at private meetings must be a fundamental breach of democratic duty, and I want to explore this in my FOI request. The planning process must be exposed to public scrutiny at every stage since planning permission is transferring a great public asset. COYC appears to have been just as guilty as the applicants in their failures to engage with the public. (See my recent 82 page Critique for numerous examples where the planning rules on consultation have not been followed.)
Even though I have tried on so many occasions to engage the planning officers and your own office in the many errors in this planning process, I still ask you now to conduct a formal investigation and publish the results. A decade of neglect by COYC has undermined my confidence in your office or your officers to provide an independent assessment of matters related to this planning application. (You can explore this in the many letters I have sent and which are published on the website savefulford.org.) Nevertheless, I hope you will take this latest request seriously and act on it. Something is seriously wrong with the internal communication and regulation of the planning system. The evidence I already have is unequivocal. Please pay attention.
I also expect you to ensure that the elected representatives are made aware of this challenge to the integrity of this planning process. I think it would be wholly inappropriate to bring this matter forward for consideration until this case has been openly scrutinised. I also hope that you will launch a detailed investigation into the Council’s dealings with the planning applicant and publish the conclusions. Two councillors told me that they had been advised that to vote against this planning application would put the Council at financial risk – My understanding is that such advice is both wrong and applying such pressure would be illegal. Please investigate.
Could I remind you that the English Heritage expert panel ‘felt very strongly that the site should be added to the Register…’ and I can produce a list of quotes which will include your own archaeologist and the applicant’s own advisors reporting Germany Beck as the place of the battle. There is no realistic doubt about the site of this momentous battle. It is primarily the opposition of COYC that has prevented this certainly being converted into proof. (John Oxley has belatedly told the applicants to ‘address’ the outstanding work in his recent comments on the request for an extension of time – You will note from my recently submitted critique that the applicants did not address any of required work in their revised application -How much longer will you tolerate such a disrespect for the planning process from these applicants! Why have they been allowed to get away with it for so long!)
Because the designation group within English Heritage ignored the advice of their panel and promoted the agreed ‘story’ to cast doubt on the location, I have objected to this conclusion. I heard a few days ago that the matter is to be referred to the Minister. I have very little doubt that the designation report with at the very least be withdrawn and that Germany Beck will before long become a designated battle site.
Could I finally pose two questions:
1. Have any of the components from City of York Council exceeded their authority and/or subverted the role of the elected members?
2. Has anybody asked the question ‘why is the City Council joining an enterprise to destroy such an economically valuable piece of our heritage?’
I have made several offers to conduct people from COYC round the battlesite, and I repeat my invitation again. Once you have seen the site you will appreciate not only the archaeological issues but also understand that this is a gift for a city where heritage and culture supports so much employment.
Please attend to the attached FOI as soon as possible since I am working to a tight Court timetable to see that justice is done on behalf of our heritage.
Encl – FOI request
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The author of the content is Charles Jones - email@example.com Last updated April 2015
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