November 25, 2003
Planned archaeology

Have a read of this posting on the Adam Smith Institute Blog, by Andrew Selkirk, all about how government impinges, and in a bad way, on archaelogy:

Not content with messing up future development, Britain's planning authorities are now wrecking ancient ones too.

Friends of mine – I am editor of Current Archaeology – persuaded the Discovery Channel to fund them in reconstructing a Roman villa in Hampshire. Whereupon the planning authorities stepped in. And now it has been reconstructed all wrong.

The classic Romano-British villa is what is known as a winged corridor Villa. There are wings projecting forward at either end, and a low veranda running along the front. In this case, the wings were abandoned on grounds of expense - well, OK, some of the smaller villas have no wings.

But it got a lot worse when the planners stepped in. First they said that only one-story buildings in the modern style are allowed in such an area of outstanding natural beauty. Then the veranda, instead of being left open at the front, had to be built in. Finally they insisted on having a continuous roof instead of a double roof (one over the main building, and one over the corridor, with clerestory windows above the corridor).

The result is a complete farce: looking more like a boring modern farm building than a Roman villa.
And now generations of schoolchildren will visit the site - to say nothing of the millions who will see the TV programme - and get a totally false impression of what a Roman villa looks like. All because of Hampshire County Council's planning officials.

Hasn't something gone wrong if planners can even insist that Roman villas should be built how they say, and not as the Romans actually built them?

Indeed.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:16 PM
Category: ArchitectureTown planning