|14 July 2008
Ancient English monuments are under threat, say experts
Experts at English Heritage have just compiled a Risk Register which pinpoints England's historic treasures that are most in need of urgent attention to save them for the future. Heritage at Risk is an alarming read. Of the 70,000 protected sites assessed so far, one in five scheduled monuments — from burial mounds to castles and abbeys — is at 'high risk'. Across Cambridgeshire alone there are 308 Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs), of which 263 are at risk. Although protected by law, scheduled monuments are threatened by a wide range of human activities and natural processes. The new study has revealed also that almost 20% of historic monuments in the east of England are currently at risk, including the late neolithic Harpley burial mound in north-west Norfolk, which has suffered damage from motocross riders. The owners have now put up signs banning motocross riding and reseeded to provide a healthy grass cover.
Regional director for English Heritage in the East of England Greg Luton said: "We are particularly anxious about the condition of scheduled ancient monuments. When damaged or lost, such sites, often dating back thousands of years, cannot be replaced. We believe that no monument which is legally protected in the public interest should be at high risk."
The register is meant to concentrate minds: the minds of English Heritage's own experts, when they draw up priorities; the minds of the public, who may be alerted to threatened monuments in their neighbourhood; and the minds of local authorities, one potential source of funds. Part of the problem lies in government funding levels. English Heritage’s finances have been so constrained that it is distributing only £4.4 million a year, compared with £6.6 million a decade ago. Scheduled ancient monuments for the most part are not money-makers and never will be - cash has to be spent with no prospect of return.
Sources: BBC News (8 July 2008), Times Online (9 July 2008), The Evening Telegraph, Norwich Evening News (10 July 2008)
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