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January 2015 - draft proposal for specific exemptions from marine licencing for underwater archaeology
In response to
a formal proposal for a set of additional exemptions to the Marine and Coastal Access Act has been drafted to present to DEFRA and the MMO.
The draft has been prepared in formal, legal language by Mike Williams (NAS Honorary Secretary, member of the South West Maritime Archaeology Group and a lecturer in marine law) with specific input and evidence from a number of Licencees and licence team members including Peter Holt, Dan Pascoe, Kevin Camidge and Dave Johnston.
The proposed exemptions are aimed to cover much of the work that Protected Wreck Licence Teams may need to do under their DCMS licences, plus some additional freedoms for those working on non designated sites. The draft is currently being circulated to the various diving agencies and the major UK underwater archaeology organisations and groups in the expectation that they will all sign up to it in order to present a unified front to DEFRA and the MMO.
Mike will be attending the Licencee meeting on 6th Feb to explain the background to the proposals. It is inevitable that the proposed exemptions won’t please everyone and that some may feel that the proposals don’t go far enough. However, they have been prepared on the advice from numerous sources as the very maximum freedom that we might be able to secure in the present political climate. Mike’s specific comments are as follows
“One of the myths that seems to have grown up about the 2009 Act is that it was meant to protect the natural environment only….. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Act was deliberately amended in Parliament to control archaeological activities on the seabed which were unauthorised. Consequently it is true to say that the old freedom to excavate (apart from by hand) was deliberately taken away from by the Act and clearly having gone to the considerable time & trouble to pass the Act no government department is about to repeal it, either directly or by granting large exemptions.
The blunt truth is that the old freedoms were taken away in 2009 and will never be coming back, as the 2009 Act has and continues to have cross party support in Westminster. I am afraid that is a fact of political reality we are all going to have to accept and move on. It is a pipe dream to think DCMS, DEFRA, EH or MMO will give up this power to control archaeological activities.”
We have to be realistic in our aspirations and work within whatever framework we are able to secure.
The current state of the draft can be downloaded from the link on the RHS. It will undergo minor revision before submission.
Groups being asked to sign up to the draft:
Association of Protected Wreck Site Licensees