Draft National Planning Policy Framework for England; New historic environment resource from the MMO; Diver training and safety; Wind farm work; Tobermory Galleon salvage firm no longer diving; National Historic Ships; ESF funded PhD Research Studentship in Orkney; Australia and the UNESCO Convention


 

Draft National Planning Policy Framework for England

This very important policy draft has been published this week. The IfA will be making a formal response. 

New historic environment resource from the MMO

A new resource of potential interest to archaeologists specialising in coastal and marine work is now available via the Marine Management Organisation website.  Their ‘Marine Planning Portal’ web GIS now includes the historic environment.

The historic environment’ records for ‘Protected wreck sites’ are taken from English Heritage, collected and validated with assistance from the Maritime Archaeology Team at Fort Cumberland. ‘Historic shipwrecks’ are taken from the AMIE Monuments Inventory (NMR).  

Diver training and safety

The number of  HSE diver training certificates being issued appears set to drop again in 2011 after a dramatic rise between 2004 and 2009. In 2009 over 450 SCUBA and 300 surface supplied certificates were issued.

The prospect for both newly qualified and experienced professional divers seeking regular archaeological diving work continues to look rather gloomy. As government funding contracts and the Big Society rises, career archaeologists wishing to work underwater may increasingly find themselves expected to contribute their skills and experience as volunteers.

On a more positive note, opportunities for funded participation in Short Term Scientific Missions (STMS) and Training Schools (TS) remain open to archaeologists through SPLASHCOS. Preference is given to graduate students and researchers awarded a PhD within the last eight years. An important opportunity for many, but perhaps not such good news for more established archaeologists who are often precluded from applying for such opportunities by their poor wages and lack of leave.

Meanwhile on the safety front, the number of fatal accidents across all diving industry sectors halved in 2010/11 from the previous year and major injuries also fell dramatically. Nevertheless, two working divers were killed and incidents of decompression illness doubled.

The number of improvement and prohibition notices issued also increased in 2010-11. Contractors issued with notices as a result of inspections are likely to have to pay ‘intervention fees’ from April 2012 onwards. However, budget cuts mean that contractors are less likely to be randomly inspected.

As far as the MAG Blog  is aware, the last prohibition notices to be issued in the context of an archaeological diving operation in the UK were in 2005. Since then at least two inspections have been carried out and on each occasion the contractor involved has reportedly been given a clean bill of health.

Wind farm work

Environmental impact assessment and mitigation for offshore wind farm schemes has been one of the big growth areas for companies providing archaeological services in the coastal and marine sector.

It will therefore be of interest to many MAG members that the UKgovernment has now published its long awaited Electricity Market Reform White Paper, a document pledging to increase the target for offshore wind power to 18GW by 2020. The paper proposes establishing a task group with the aim of driving down the cost of producing offshore wind by 40-60%. This will improve its competitiveness and reduce the need for long-term subsidy. As a result, the industry is likely to remain highly cost-driven.

The Association of Diving Contractors, the trade body representing the inshore/inland diving industry, is developing a code of practice for diving on renewable projects. A draft for consultation will be circulated to ADC members in November.

‘Tobermory Galleon’ salvage firm no longer diving 

Fathoms Ltd, the UK diving contractor which has been involved in recent efforts to salvage the Spanish Armada vessel lost in Tobermory Bay on Mull, is reported to have disbanded its diving division.

The work involving Fathoms is understood to have been unsuccessful, which is perhaps not surprising given the wreck’s history. Lost in 1588 as a result of a massive gunpowder explosion, the wreck had been thoroughly salvaged by 1740. Its exact location was subsequently lost but that has not stopped the adventurous and the misguided from looking for it ever since.

Recent efforts have been particularly optimistic, given that the idea that treasure was onboard appears to be based upon what is very probably a misidentification of the vessel. Indeed, contrary to the  British Pathé newsreel on Buster Crabbe and the Royal Navy’s efforts to find it in the 1950s, the ship was neither Spanish nor a galleon!

National Historic Ships

The latest Summer 2011 e-News is now available from NHS and is being circulated to MAG members. Their photography competition remains open to all-comers.

ESF funded PhD Research Studentship in Orkney

Applicants are invited to apply for a PhD studentship on Coastal Change and Archaeological Heritage in Northern Scotland based at Orkney College. Closing date is 19 August 2011.

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