Shaftesbury Town Council is put under fire by the English Heritage for erecting a 6-foot war memorial just fifteen feet away from the ruins of ancient Shaftesbury Abbey. According to the latter, the former has committed a ‘criminal offence’ for carrying out the building of the said World War II monument without proper consent from the Secretary of State.
An Honest Mistake
According to English Heritage, the ruins of ancient Shaftesbury Abbey recognized by law as a ‘scheduled’ or listed monument and it is under the protection of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 which states that no works carried out to listed monuments should be made unless they have obtained consent from the Secretary of State – something that Shaftesbury Town Council do not have.
“Under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, it is a criminal offence to carry out works to a scheduled monument without consent from the secretary of state,” English Heritage spokesman stated.
He pointed out that even if the said memorial is already fifteen feet away from the old walls of the abbey and that the town council owned the parcel of land it was erected, not to mention it is also just a few feet away from another older war monument, these do not give the council permission to go on and put up the new marker as the abbey’s area extends around its visible ruins, including the spot the contested monument is erected.
“English Heritage is taking this matter seriously, but our focus is on achieving a negotiated solution,” he added.
However, Councillor Lester Dibben who was involved with the construction of the project defended the move saying it was a honest mistake in their part. Prior to putting up the marker, he said, the town council had asked North Dorset District Council way back in 2010 if they needed planning permission for the planned marker on Abbey Walk but they were told there was no need for that.
Currently, North Dorset District Council is yet to issue a statement regarding the matter.
Open Option: Relocation
English heritage had asked the town council to move the 6-foot Portland Stone monument, a suggestion that saddened the latter.
“I feel really sad for the servicemen and their families,” Mr. Dibben said.
Another councilor, Mick Hicks, revealed that the said monument was put up to honor all Shaftesbury residents who died serving the country during and after WWII. The said monument features the regiments’ cap badges including Devonshire and Dorset which later merged as The Rifles. 20,000 pounds of its total costs was covered by public donations.
Not The First Time
Nevertheless, it is not the first time the new war memorial in Shaftesbury is placed on the hot seat. Critics have branded it an ‘eye sore’ and had described it as an insult to those who had given time, money and effort for its construction.
Town resident Barry Freeman complained that the town council had erected the marker despite lack of consultation with the locals as well as the Royal British Legion.
“It’s in the wrong stone and challenges, crowds and detracts from the existing elegant war memorial that has served the town perfectly well until now…Where it has been erected jars terribly with its surroundings, particularly the beautiful, weathered walls of local stone. Where was planning policy and the thoughts of the town council in approving this location?” he lamented.
Mr. Freeman also added that the council should have cleaned the existing war memorial first before putting up a new one.