A protestor is led away by Police after a sit-in protest at a Herefordshire Council meeting on July 12 2007. © Rob Hattersley
Following a sit-in and subsequent arrests at a council meeting in Herefordshire on July 12 2007, campaigners fighting to preserve an archaeological find dubbed the Rotherwas Ribbon are calling on Herefordshire Council to let the public have a say in its future.
Campaigners from a variety of backgrounds – ranging from the Campaign for Rural England to the Green Party – oppose Herefordshire Council’s initial plan to encase the archaeological find in a protective layer and allow a road to be built over it.
Although its ritual use is still unclear, archaeologists are hailing the serpent-shaped ribbon of stones as being as important as Stonehenge. The Council say they are awaiting a report by English Heritage to advise them on the future care of the site.
However, ever since the Bronze Age trackway was revealed to the public on June 27, disquiet about a perceived lack of consultation on the matter has been mounting.
On the afternoon of Thursday July 12 eight protesters refused to leave a Herefordshire Council building until Cabinet members guaranteed a full public consultation. The protestors, including some in their 70s and 80s, were eventually escorted from the premises by police and arrested on charges of 'aggressive trespass'.
An 81-year-old man, a 72-year-old woman, and a 46-year-old woman are due to appear at Hereford Magistrates’ Court on July 25. A further five people have been released on bail and are due to return to Hereford Police Station on July 25.
The 60m (197ft) long curved ribbon of stones is a surface of cracked stones located just south of Hereford city. © Herefordshire County Council
"All the Council had to do was guarantee a proper public debate, and then this would not have happened", said campaigner and Green party member Rob Hattersley. "What do they have to hide? Those arrested are the Hereford suffragettes - all because Herefordshire Council won't be open and democratic in its procedures."
Construction on the site, which is believed by archaeologists to date to around 2000BC - the time of Stonehenge - has been paused and members of the public have been allowed to view the site by appointment. But calls continue to grow for a full public consultation and for all elected councillors to have a say in the final decision.
“The key thing is to put pressure on the council to make them realise that this is a national find,” added Rob, “Herefordshire Council Cabinet shouldn’t be allowed to decide on something which is a national issue. We want it open to all councillors for debate and we want a full public debate about the site as well.”
“I will always be opposed to the road because there is such a weak economic case for it, but if people were able to have their say, at least the charge of secrecy and arrogance would be lessened against Herefordshire Council."
One of the councillors leading calls for more consultation is Green Party Councillor for the Rotherwas area, Gerald Dawe. Cllr Dawe’s electoral campaign focussed on the issues of the Rotherwas Relief Road, the route of which the Rotherwas Ribbon was discovered underneath.
The building of the road, together with a local housing scheme on the overlooking Dinedor Hill area, has been a local political hot potato.
Campaigners outside Herefordshire Council's offices on July 12. © Rob Hattersley
“We have to have a debate,” said Councillor Dawe. “What does the electorate want: an access road to an industrial estate (which remember, already has a good road to it) and unaffordable housing? Or a new concept Heritage Park, connected to Hereford City by foot, wheelchair, bike, horse and canoe, linking to the river and riverside walks and views and to Dinedor Hill with hillside walks and views?”
For Herefordshire Council, Deputy Leader, Cllr June French responded: “Herefordshire Council acknowledges the right to speak and be heard and guarantees that the views of those who have protested…will be taken into account through the normal democratic process.”
Cllr French added that the report from English Heritage would then be considered by the Cabinet. “At this meeting an informed decision will be made by democratically elected councillors who will have the opportunity to express the views of the people of Herefordshire. This will include the local councillor who, as normal, will be invited to speak.”
“It is a nonsense to suggest that a decision on the preservation of the Rotherwas Ribbon either has or will be made in secret and behind closed doors.”
Visit Herefordshire Council’s website for more information about the Rotherwas Ribbon
Visit www.rotherwasribbon.com to find out more about the campaign.
Find out more about the campaign to stop housing in the Dinedor area www.dinedorhillaction.co.uk
What do you think? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your views.