It seems that for some years now our industry has been under pressure. The sources have been many and various: changes in government planning policy, recession, the recent attempts to destroy the renewable energy industry…I could go on, but you get the gist I’m sure.
The most recent incident we are taking more personally, although I’m sure we’re neither the first nor the last independent heritage consultancy to experience this.
A very good client of ours, one of our best to be honest, recently put in a planning application and, as normal, we have supplied the desk based assessment as the first stage of the planning process. They informed us a week or two ago that a local anti-development objector group had been formed, which is not unusual in itself and was kind of anticipated by our clients and ourselves. What we were not expecting was the ‘response’ to our DBA, undertaken by a large consultancy; not a heritage based company I should stress, but rather a large land agency type company with their own in-house ‘heritage consultant’.
The tone of the objector-funded ‘response’ was both aggressive and patronising and ended with the clearly bought-and-paid-for conclusion of ‘substantial harm’, despite the fact that Historic England, the County Archaeologist and the Conservation officer have all conceded ‘less than substantial harm’, as did we in our report. The majority of the ‘response’ comprised nit-picking and repetitive claims of ‘fundamentally flawed’ research, which is really not worth the effort to reiterate – life’s too short.
What was the price of the ‘substantial harm’ conclusion, we’ll never know. We do know that the individual who provided the response could have damaged our company’s good name, with their rather tawdry piece of work now out there in the public domain.
At Armour Heritage, we have always prided ourselves on our company ethics – there are things we will not touch: nuclear, HS2 and dragging our fellow professionals’ names through the dirt. We also pride ourselves on giving our clients the best advice. Where there really is the possibility of ‘substantial harm’, we will tell them so, even though it will cost us further down the line if the project goes no further based on our advice.
The title of this piece is ‘Respect’ for a reason. Surely as a profession under constant pressure, we should be respecting and supporting our colleagues in the industry, not undermining them to the highest bidder. To say we are disappointed is something of an understatement, we would expect better.