New law in Wales safeguarding monuments puts onus on landowners

Many of Wales' scheduled monuments stand on agricultural land

1 July 2016

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The Historic Environment (Wales) Act became law on 21 March and is designed to protect Wales’ scheduled monuments, many of which stand on agricultural land. Farmers and landowners need to be aware that the Act makes it more difficult for individuals who damage protected monuments to escape prosecution by pleading ignorance of a monument’s status or location. Authorities also have new powers to take urgent action to stop unauthorised work to historic sites and to prevent historic buildings from falling into disrepair.

Sites can vary from earth works, standing stones and burial chambers, to well-known castles and abbeys or 20th century military structures.  One of the Act’s measures allows owners and the relative authorities to negotiate agreements for the coherent and consistent management of historic assets over a number of years.

Cooke & Arkwright provides professional advice and estate management to a number of landowners and large estates throughout Wales. Chris Hyde, Associate Director with Land Agency comments, “Scheduled monuments are subject to a local land charge and periodic inspection by Cadw, so owners are likely to know if they have protected sites on their land. They need to be aware of the new law as there will be consequences for deliberate neglect of listed buildings, including financial penalties and measures to allow local authorities to recover costs if they have to take direct action. It shouldn’t be a problem for responsible owners.”

Wales has over 4,000 scheduled monuments and 30,000 listed buildings, to be made publically available via the historic environment records. In 2013, serious damage was done to a well-preserved section of the 1,200 year old Offa’s Dyke, demonstrating how well-known monuments that have survived centuries can be destroyed in a very short time.

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