Page last updated at 14:06 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Purton Hulks group meets culture minister to seek help

One of the Purton Hulks
It would be "a travesty" if the vessels were not protected, campaigners say

English Heritage has been criticised over its attitude to the ships graveyard in Gloucestershire known as the Purton Hulks.

A group campaigning for the sunken vessels to be protected will meet Culture Minister Margaret Hodge later to press its case.

Its leader Paul Barnett claimed before the meeting that English Heritage lacked interest in the site.

But English Heritage said it wanted the hulks to have a future.

'Marvellous work'

One hundred years ago, locals began deliberately beaching old barges at Purton to help to shore up the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal which runs alongside the River Severn.

The relics of 81 "working men's vessels" - trows, schooners and barges - lie derelict in the muddy foreshore.

Mr Barnett, chairman of the Friends of Purton, said English Heritage did marvellous work on castles and other historic buildings.

But he claimed the organisation had not been "interested in the slightest" in the campaign for the site of the hulks to be legally protected.

Mr Barnett said it would be "a national travesty" if action was not taken to give the hulks the protection of the law because they formed part of Britain's maritime heritage.

Stroud's MP has backed calls for protection for the hulks: From BBC Democracy Live

English Heritage Maritime Designation Adviser Mark Dunkley said in a statement: "The most urgent issue is to secure a management solution for the site.

"We share the aims of local groups who want to see the site protected, understood and valued and have been working with them, local authorities, Natural England and British Waterways to ensure the Purton Hulks have a future.

"They are already afforded statutory protection for environmental reasons as the vessels lie within a site of special scientific interest.

"English Heritage has published an agreed statement of their significance and will confirm their status once we have a full picture of how nationally important they are compared to the many other hulks around the country."

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