Tuesday 10 May 2005 7.45pm
is, for my money, a good example of how not to protect or conserve something that is described as a 'national monument'.
The current dig is, I believe, the 4th such dig and still there is still no definitive and unequivocal understanding of what is down there. The current demand for 'preservation insitu', means that relatively contemporary structures have been left undisturbed over the top of ........who knows what. I understand that traces of a Roman settlement were found at the most southerly edge of the east block but the extent of the settlement is unknown because of the piecemeal nature of the examination.
The developer's plans could be completely overturned if something 'valuable' were to be found in the 'wrong' place because the original scheme was based upon a best guess of what lay beneath the surface. Given that foundations for the new scheme cannot (on EH's instructions) disturb existing remains, if something valuable turns up, the scheme might have to be substantially rejigged.
Maybe EH should have done the archaeology themselves and maybe the European system of insurance should be used where, if remains of truly national significance are found and deserve preservation, then the whole site is excavated and preserved for the public. The insurance is then used to pay off the owners or developers dependent upon their losses.
As it is, we will only ever have partial and/or best guess knowledge based upon the 30% of the jigsaw that we have found. Then the whole lot will be buried under a new building. How much, I wonder, does this kack-handedness cost the taxpayer?
PS No-one seems to complain about the dwarf block that was built on the east side of Bermondsey Square
in the late 1980s. That really is a mess.