Letter: Dutch shipwreck could be saved with ingenuity

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Sir: I was both uplifted and cast down by David Keys's article "Historic wreck's rescue scuppered by bureaucrats" (27 June). Uplifted to read that "it is the best preserved ship of its type in the world" and cast down to read that English Heritage, on advice from the Treasury solicitor, will have nothing to do with it because it lies "50 metres south of mean low water and, therefore, not in England" (50 metres!).

Were it otherwise, English Heritage would no doubt have a statutory duty to act, but isn't its miserably negative attitude really symptomatic of a lack of willpower? One imagines with what relief English Heritage executives received the news from the Treasury solicitor's daily tidal measurements with his trousers rolled up and tape measure in hand - after all, he has a considerable interest, too. We do not have to do anything, we do not have to exert ourselves to raise a large sum of money.

I have worked, always in new product development, for three internationally famous retail consumer goods companies and, faced with a prospect of such international profit (fame and respect is the equivalent for English Heritage) cannot believe it would have turned down such a wonderful opportunity.

If English Heritage is ring-fenced by a statutory duty only to act on English soil, could it not get enabling legislation exceptionally to extend this? A private member's bill, "The Sailing Ship Amsterdam Rescue Bill", might work. English Heritage surely has enough friends among the great and the good. Television coverage, collecting boxes, a bottle of 250- year-old wine for each subscription of pounds 1,000 or more, corporate sponsorship, a video presentation, all on an international basis.

It might not succeed, but they could at least try. Life is full of surprises and unexpected opportunities. If the formation of English Heritage did not anticipate such a marginal situation as exists here, surely the thing is to take steps to find a remedy. But the answer is a lemon - and it leaves the same bitter taste in the mouth.

Yours faithfully,


House of Lords

London, SW1

27 June

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