There has been a lot of recent interesting work being carried out on off-shore archaeology. This does not just include traditional nautical archaeology focussing on the study of ships and maritime installations. Work such as Birmingham University’s research into North Sea palaeolandscapes is extremely important. It aims to better understand the early landscape of areas now covered by water. Similar work could undoubtedly be carried out elsewhere on the British continental shelf.
Whilst of undoubted inherent importance, this research also has clear implications for resource management. With the push towards the expansion of renewable energy, there is inevitably going to be a greater push towards wind power, particularly in off-shore locations where more consistent winds are available and there is likely to be less opposition from local interest groups. However, the work at Birmingham serves as a useful reminder that such projects need to remember that seabeds are as much historic landscapes as on-shore locations. As such it is encouraging to see that COWRIE (Collaborative Offshore Wind Research Into The Environment), an independent company set up to raise awareness and understanding of the potential environmental impacts of the UK offshore windfarm programme has just published a guidance note for best practice in survey, appraisal and monitoring of the historic environment during the development of offshore renewable energy projects in the United Kingdom.
However, as always the proof of the pudding will be in the eating- will this guidance be followed or ignored in the push to meet government targets for renewable energy?
As with most things, unless there is something or someone to enforce any guidance or laws, it is unlikely.Possibly the guidance will be followed for as long as possible, before it becomes clear that it is too \’time consuming for what its worth\’ or something similar before it is dismissed completely.Or at least, that is how I see it.
Could the installation of offshore wind turbines protect the seabed in the same way a new building is placed over an archaeologically significant site (see Chester amphitheatre), as many turbines are anchored rather than fixed. The wholescale destruction of our seabed environment has been going on for many decades, with factory fishing practices and more disgustingly with the old \”bovril boats\” which twice a week used to head for the North Sea from London to discharge their cargo. Also as landfill sites fill, will we turn to the sea to dump our rubbish as some countries still do.
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