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Planning archaeology

Local Planning Authorities are responsible for making sure development is undertaken responsibly and in accordance with relevant planning law, policy and guidance.

Issues relating to the impact of development on archaeology are assessed by the planning archaeologist following specific archaeological policies. These include the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The planning archaeologist is responsible for providing advice on archaeology and development to the local planning authorities. The planning archaeologist also provides advice directly to planning permission applicants, landowners and other agencies such as water authorities.

How do we know whether there is any archaeological interest in a proposed development?

When a planning application is made to the local planning authority, the planning archaeologist will undertake a preliminary assessment of any archaeological implications of the proposed work, based on information held by the Historic Environment Record (HER).

The preliminary assessment involves identifying whether there are any known archaeological sites on or near the proposed development.

If the proposed development is not of archaeological interest, then there will be no requirement for any further archaeological action.

What if a proposed development is of archaeological interest?

If the planning archaeologist decides that development is of archaeological interest, the next stage is to decide whether there is enough information to assess how the proposed development will affect any archaeological features/sites present.

Pre-determination evaluation

Sometimes, not enough may be known about a site and the planning archaeologist will ask for assessment work to be carried out before planning permission is granted. This is called a pre-determination evaluation.

Pre-determination will include a range of works to provide appropriate information. This work will be carried out by professional archaeologists working on behalf of the developer and might include small-scale excavation, geophysical/geotechnical survey and documentary research.

On satisfactory completion and reporting of this work, the planning archaeologist will advise the local planning authority on whether the development should proceed and whether further work is required.

Archaeology and the planning process

If there is sufficient information to make an informed decision on your planning application, the planning archaeologist may make one of the following recommendations:

  • request a programme of archaeological fieldwork
  • give consideration as to whether the design of the development can be altered to avoid damaging the archaeological remains
  • refusal (extremely rare)
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