So things have been pretty hectic this week in the whirl-wind of news! So I thought it might be good to do a little round-up…

Heathrow Runway Three

Chelsea Barracks

Recession hits PhD & conference funding

Heathrow Runway Three

So after much speculation and gossip, the government gave the go-ahead for BAA to submit a planning application for the third runway, and presumably the sixth terminal.

The papers suggest over a hundred listed buildings will face demolition. I haven’t checked this out myself yet, but there’s certainly some fear in church circles at the moment. Even if the churches themselves survive, they’ll be stuck in the middle or on the edge of a massive airport, with no congregations. Who’s going to pay for roof repairs then? If the communities they minister to are destroyed, they will follow shortly, even if the fabrics are preserved for the immediate future.

I’m not going to go into the arguments, but in the interests of fairness I should tell you that I don’t support it. I hope it doesn’t happen, and I’ll certainly be looking into the archaeology of the area to see what shows up. However, if it does happen, I hope that BAA cough up the money for some decent archaeological work. And that unlike the 2012 excavations, the archaeologists are actually permitted to dig where they’ll find stuff, rather than limiting to areas where they know nothing will be found just so some horrible concrete sheds can be thrown up without any interruption. Of course, there’s no proof that did happen, just shovelbum gossip. But let’s hope none of the units succumb to the influence of big-business and forget that they’re supposed to be around to protect the archaeology.

Chelsea Barracks

Property Week (and a few other papers) published short articles about the developer’s response to English Heritage’s desire to list the chapel at Chelsea Barracks. The developer says:

“If the chapel is listed and subsequently retained then the developer will need to review the content of the proposed scheme including the extent of the community benefits it can provide”

Is it just me, but does that sound like a threat? I mean, considering they want to demolish the church, and I’m sure it would be terribly inconvenient to have to treat it with the respect it deserves, rather than just bulldozing it.

Additionally, the preservation of the chapel will:

“impact on our neighbours who would have benefited from the proposed public open space, the commemorative garden, the fit-out of the sports complex and the potential funding of other public benefits associated with the scheme which local groups have asked for, all of which will inevitably be impacted adversely.”

I’m confused how the chapel will prevent them from fitting out the sport complex and going through with everything else they promised (which presumably helped them win the planning consent?). Again, this sounds a lot like a threat.

Clearly I could do with more evidence on the subject though. I’m not specifically in favour of the chapel, and I need to do more research on it. But I do resent the tone of the comments. Our cultural heritage is not something that can be bargained away in exchange for a nice new sports centre and “public benefits”, all of which will probably disappear within a decade of the development finishing.

However, I have a (marginal) sympathy with the developers. They paid over £900 million for the site just before the recession, so they must be desperate for savings somewhere. What’s the betting that those “public benefits” disappear by the time the development is finished anyway?

Recession hits PhD and conference funding

There’s been a little discomfort in academic circles recently with the fall of some of the companies which had been providing funding – those in the metals, ceramics and glasses business.  Anyone notice Wedgewood went into receivership this week? And Rio Tinto are pulling out of their British aluminium smelting in Anglesey, as part of an attempt to cut 14,000 jobs and reduce capital spending by $5 billion (£3.4 billion) because of a reduction in demand for metals.

Clearly the big multinationals are cutting back on their spending, and that includes the PhD positions and conferences they had been sponsoring. I would hope the current PhD candidates are safe, but it looks like there will be no new positions for a while. The same can be said for the conferences, as although some of the companies are honouring pre-crunch agreements, those organisers still touting for sponsorship are finding their requests falling on deaf ears.

So in the meantime, although the conferences are likely to go ahead, we can all look forwards to an increase in attendance fees. And for those of the recently unemployed looking to head back into education, the scrum for AHRC PhD funding will doubtless be even more desperate.

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