BAJR : Developer section

Archaeology as part of the planning process when conducted professionally and in good time by reputable archaeologists can remove risk, increase social awareness and even add value to a development.


An Excellent Guide can also be found here: Lincolnshire Archaeological Handbook
The Archaeological Handbook seeks to set practical guidelines for a consistent approach to the historic environment within the planning process in Lincolnshire. It outlines the principles of modern historic environment resource management and details those aspects of the process of relevance to Lincolnshire.

The first stop should be the Archaeological Curator or Planning Archaeologist in your area:

CIfA Regulations, Standards and Guidelines

CIfA has developed a range of Regulations, Standards and Guidelines that are binding on all members and Registered Organisations to ensure that CIfA members work to high ethical and professional standards. These documents are listed below (all documents in PDF format unless otherwise stated):




A Short Guide to Archaeology within Planning :

  1. Why Archaeology?
  2. Predetermination/Early Discussions
  3. Environmental Impact Assessments
  4. Desk Based Studies
  5. Field Survey
  6. Watching Briefs,Excavations & Evaluations
  7. Building Survey
  8. Human Burials
  9. Post Excavation
  10. Mitigation and Preservation in-situ
  11. Conclusion
  12. Appendix 1– One Page Guide
  13. Download pdf of this article

This document is produced as a personal guide to applicants within the planning process, and to keep it simple I have only given an overview of the process. This should not be seen as a definitive document, as each case of development will be unique. The basic processes, terms and requirements will remain roughly the same though, and this will give you a good idea of what to expect AND what is been asked of you.

This document cannot be used as evidence for any legal procedures within the Archaeological Planning Process – Separate laws cover England, Ireland Scotland and Wales, and for reasons on simplicity I have not dealt with them separately and the views expressed are likewise simplified.

Please see this Guide for what it is; a short, easy to understand document that is there to help you understand what is happening –for further more specific information and advice enquirers should contact their curatorial archaeological adviser, especially as each site is different.

David Connolly, Director, BAJR 1st February 2009

1. Why Archaeology? -

The main role of Local Government Archaeology Services is to advise the Planning Department on the protection of archaeological remains within the planning process This is ruled by planning policy guidance (PPG's) 15, 16 & 18 and, in Scotland NPPG’s 5 and 18 and PAN 42 and the development plans. There is still a need to improve the protection of archaeological remains from development that falls outside the planning process, including agri-enviromental schemes and works by statutory bodies such as Power or Water.

Even smaller permitted developments, especially in towns, can damage archaeological deposits.

When you lodge a planning application it will be appraised by the Local Government Archaeology Service and they will decide whether your proposed development will potentially cause damage to/or may encounter previously unknown archaeological sites or deposits. The first question is often ...Why? This can be answered by the need for preserving where possible or recording if not, the fragile and finite resource of Heritage in the UK, whether it is a Neolithic Burial Cairn, a ditch that tells the thousand year story of a village, or a Farm building that tells us the history of agriculture over the past 200 years. We all have a responsibility to the past, to preserve it for the future. Each time we destroy a site, it is a loss that cannot be replaced, as each place, each find is unique and helps to create the full picture of how we arrived at this point in time. It is often seen as a waste of time, as a tax, or just plain daft, however, more and more developers, architects and planners have realised that Heritage is an important part of all our lives and working with local government archaeologists can help to provide both community goodwill, positive publicity and a sense of building the future on the foundations of the past. Archaeological investigations should never be seen as holding up development if they are carried out in plenty of time prior to development. It can actually inform the process and allow minor changes, for example to services and landscape layout, to be carried out. This then removes the need for further work, which will then mean there may be no need for larger excavation. The key words in heritage management in the 21st century are ‘preservation in situ’, this means that if a way can be found to protect the archaeology without excavation, then that is the preferred scheme. Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAM), Listed Buildings (Grade A or I/II and Designed Landscapes will normally be dealt with in consultation with the National Governmental bodies, Historic Scotland, English Heritage, CADW and Environment and Heritage Services (NI) or The Heritage Council (Eire). The following document will outline the various forms of archaeological conditions that you may find attached to your development sites application. There is also a handy one-page guide at the end of this article, a glossary of terms, and links to other useful sites. Remember that early communication with the Planning authority regarding archaeology, will save time (and money) in the long term – see Council Archaeological Advisors as facilitators, there to help, not hinder your proposed development.

2. Predetermination/Early Discussions -

In some cases, the planning archaeologist may feel that are not in possession of enough information to arrive at an informed decision on a planning proposal. In this case they will often require what is called a predetermination, it is also referred to in PAN 42 as early discussions between developers and planning authorities.

Predetermination may include desk-based assessments, intrusive evaluation, geophysics, field survey and other methods of collecting enough information on the site to allow for an informed decision to be made. Predetermination should be seen as pre-application, as the results of the work may or will have a bearing on the final development.

3. Environmental Impact Assessments

Increasingly, with large-scale developments and public works, a full EIA is carried out well in advance of a project. Where EIA is required, the developer must provide an environmental statement setting out the information specified in the Regulations about the site and the likely significant effects of the proposed development on the environment.

EIAs should detail the effects of a proposed development on "material assets and the cultural heritage". This will include the development’s effects on SAMs and their settings, other archaeological sites, the potential for the disturbance of presently unknown archaeological remains, listed buildings, historic gardens and designed landscapes, conservation areas and their settings. Often, an environmental consultancy, will provide in-house archaeologists to carry out the study, or may prefer to utilise a local company to undertake fieldwork.

4. Desk Based Assessments

A DBA often precedes evaluations in the field as a “nested” programme of works, each stage informing the next, and providing the information for a decision on the planning application. It is never the case that a DBA will be asked for as the sole condition, but as the first phase of a sequence. The planning archaeologist may consider it appropriate to recommend to the local planning authority to begin a phased programme of works with a desk-based assessment. This will consist of thorough research of all existing information without any fieldwork. The IFA standard (1994a) states: "Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment is defined as an assessment of the known or potential archaeological resource within a specified area or site on land, inter-tidal or underwater. It consists of a collation of existing written and graphic, photographic and electronic information in order to identify the likely character, extent, quality and worth of the known or potential archaeological resource in a local, regional, national or international context as appropriate." The point of a DBA is to gather information on a site or area to access the potential for archaeological features and the presence, significance and quality of known sites. Available resources that can be utilised include local Sites and Monument Records, Local History Centre archives, Aerial Photographs, Historic Maps, Estate Records and other documents.

This will allow the contractor to produce a list of sites, with a description, potential, approximate date, references, and further recommendations. The DBA helps to prepare an informed strategy for any further work. Further work in most cases leads to targeted evaluation, mitigation or a full programme of works.

CIFA Standards Document STANDARD AND GUIDANCE for an archaeological watching brief

5. Field Survey

A Field Survey often takes place prior to large development and may be part of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), there will be no intrusive archaeology involved.

A survey is carried out in a methodical and organised manner, with all features of human activity marked onto a plan of the area, a photograph taken, with a sketch plan where appropriate and a brief description. Sites can be located using GPS, visually sketched on a map or surveyed with an EDM or Total Station. It may also be of use to perform a Fieldwalk in areas of potential, which involves archaeologists collecting surface finds to analyse distribution and predict site locations and types that may lie buried, often these can be targeted on known sites, but are only possible on suitable ground surfaces such as ploughed fields. (Farmers or landowner’s permission will always be required). The survey is meant to identify and inform the potential for archaeological features, and in no way represents a final investigation.

Think of it more as a preparation for the next stage, where the information that is gathered here will allow a more accurate prediction of archaeological potential and thereby cost implications. A Field survey report should include at least a map of all the recorded sites, a list of their possible function or use, a short description and an assessment of their local or national significance. With this is possible to form a strategy for dealing with these sites.

6. Watching Briefs, Evaluations & Excavations


You may be asked for a watching brief, which will take place during the construction phase of new building or the soil-stripping phase of a landscape preparation. This involves the presence of an archaeologist on-site to observe and identify any archaeological remains. The archaeologist would record any less-significant remains found, and is normally given around 2 hours per feature.

NOTE :: Important discoveries may require more extensive excavation which may cause a delay in your development, unless a rolling programme of works is built into your schedule to allow for this possibility.

Watching briefs can be required during the duration of your project during all soil movement or only on an occasional basis. If it is felt that there is little chance of archaeology being discovered on your site this can be a cost effective methodology. But remember that if significant archaeology is uncovered, a further phase of work will be required before planning conditions will be satisfied. It may therefore be more prudent to opt for an evaluation.

CIFA Standards Document STANDARD AND GUIDANCE for an archaeological watching brief

This is usually an appraisal of the development site, which can cover a sample area from as little as 5% of the site as a whole, though it is usually more. (It all depends on the site, and the site potential) An evaluation is intended to provide a better understanding of the archaeological implications of proposed works upon development site. Appropriately qualified archaeologists or an Archaeological Unit will carry out the evaluation to establish the presence of archaeology and the extent, depth, period, and quality of preservation. The work may involve original documentary research and limited trial excavation. This form of investigation might indicate that more information is required before a decision can be taken about an appropriate archaeological response to the proposed works.

This may lead to a mitigation strategy or further excavation. The evaluation report might indicate one of the following and allows the county archaeologist to recommend a future course of action: · No further archaeological measures are necessary · The need to conserve the archaeological features uncovered requires the proposed development to be revised so as to minimise impact. · A further more detailed scheme of full archaeological investigation will be necessary prior to, or during, the proposed works. In exceptional circumstances, the scheme as proposed should not proceed, as it would be detrimental to a previously unknown nationally significant archaeological monument.

CIFA Guidance Document STANDARD AND GUIDANCE for archaeological field evaluation (1994)

This may only be necessary if no other alternative to preserving the archaeological site can be found and/or a valid research project has been established to investigate a predetermined goal. The definition of an archaeological excavation is a programme of intrusive fieldwork with defined research objectives which examines, records and interprets archaeological deposits, features and structures and, as appropriate, retrieves artefacts, ecofacts and other remains within a specified area or site on land or underwater. The records made and artefacts recovered during fieldwork are studied and the results of that study published in detail appropriate to the project design. This means that further study and research of objects, samples and other archaeological artefacts will require further funding to allow the full report to be collated (some help may be available for this from the National Bodies, but this is not common)

NOTE :: Rural excavations may have less depth of deposits, but can extend over large areas of the landscape. An Urban excavation may reveal a depth of deposits that can extend down for metres, as be extremely complex to excavate and record.

7. Historic Building Survey


Where it is proposed to demolish or alter a building of either known or potential antiquity OR if the building is list a survey of the structure may be carried out to record the building and to identify any medieval/post-medieval structure, which may be incorporated. If a building incorporates medieval/post-medieval structure, dating from before 1700 A.D., preservation in-situ of such structure will very likely be required.

At present there are 4 levels of recording (though in reality these are only points on a sliding scale that will usually be set on a case by case basis). The Levels are broadly;

LEVEL 1 :: Photographs, sketches and a small note on structure and history.

LEVEL 2 :: Photographs, ground plan phasing, description of each room and exterior, description of development and history.

LEVEL 3 :: Photographs, floor plan phasing, main elevations, descriptions of each room and exterior, detailed description of development and history. Some samples may be taken

LEVEL 4 :: Photographs, floor plan phasing, all elevations, detailed descriptions of each room and exterior, detailed description of development and history. Examination of building fabric, paint, wallpaper, mortar samples, intrusive investigation. research towards publication of structure.

There is however a new standards document (2006) available here which may superced this version.

It is more flexible in approach and breaks the work down into less vague requirements, including the new Buildings Appraisal, which will inform both the Client and Curator of exactly the work required, whcih will remove the element of 'Nasty Surprises'. It may be possible that the appraisal will show that no further work is required (saving money) or if further work is required, the BA costs will be included in the final product (therefore not adding costs).

Offering architect plans and elevations can be of help to HBR contractors, but they are not designed for the same purpose as archaeological records. They normally do not show changes in build, details of building material, window type, repair, blocking etc etc. This is the reason that new plans and elevations will be drawn up. It may be of use to consider using the archaeological plans and elevations as a base for the architect.

The disciple of Historic Building Recording is relatively recent, and it is essential that both the county planning archaeologist and the archaeological contractor brought in to survey the structure are confident in their ability to perform the task to the required standard as set out in the CIFA Guidance document The IFA standard for the archaeological investigation and recording of standing buildings or structures(1996) states: " A programme of archaeological building investigation and recording will determine, as far as is reasonably possible, the nature of the archaeological resource associated with a specified building, structure or complex. It will draw on existing records (both archaeological and historical sources) and fieldwork. It will be undertaken using appropriate methods and practices which satisfy the stated aims of the project, and which comply with the Code of conduct..” A minimum requirement for a report at any level should contain a non-technical summary, aims and objectives, methodology used, general structure description, any documentary and cartographic research, analysis and final conclusions. Dependant on the Level used, the correct level of drawings, photographs, maps etc, references and relevant appendices.

8. Human Burials

In some cases you may disturb human burials, either through required works near churches or the undiscovered remains of prehistoric or medieval peoples. There are clear laws regarding the unearthing of human remains – It is illegal to move or disturb human remains, with serious consequences if it is found that burials have been disturbed and unreported. Because of the possibility that the bones represent a recent murder victim, all discoveries of skeletal remains must be reported to either the Coroner or Procurator Fiscal (in Scotland) – (if in doubt, give your local police station and county archaeologist a call) Most archaeologists believe that excavation and analysis of human remains can only be undertaken in search of information that has a real value to society, and the skeleton must be treated with innate dignity due to a fellow human at all times.

A survey showed the general public supporting this view and even went as far as to condemn the permanent storage of human remains. The Museum of London has recently suggested that most of the 20,000 burials they hold in curation, should be reburied after completion of study.

Burials will require special care in excavation and removal (it is not acceptable to partially remove a skeleton and leave the rest in the ground). However, once again it is better to leave the burials undisturbed where possible. To quote an epitaph on a Scottish tombstone; ‘My glass has run, Yours is running, Be warned in time, Your hour is coming’ – treat skeletons as you would want to be treated… we will all be there soon enough!

BAJR Guidance on Human Remains: A Basic Overview for the Recovery of Human Remains from Sites Under Development

9. Post Excavation

Post excavation is an often-overlooked requirement on most excavations or archaeological investigations and survey. However it can take up as much, or more time, effort and money than the fieldwork. A good rule of thumb is 1 day in the field = 1.5days in the office or lab.

Without a post-excavation strategy, the whole process of data retrieval in the field would become pointless. Archaeology is essentially a data collection an therefore this information must be collated, studied, recorded, archived and published to be of any use. The pottery must be examined by specialists, soil samples will be subjected to assessment for environmental data, carbonised wood may be sent for C14 dating and bones will end up being catalogued and studied by osteologists.

All the reports must be collated and written up , before a final account is prepared and published. Often a simple report is all that is required, detailing the work carried out in the field and a brief section on the finds, however, some sites might take years to fulfil the project design requirements. The more complex the archaeology and the richer the artefacts and ecofacts recovered, then the post-excavation will be a significant part of the budget.

Ensure that an agreement is reached before any work starts that details the level of post excavation expected and your obligations in this phase of works.

Larger sites can be supported by government agencies, but this is usually the exception.

10. Mitigation & Preservation in-situ

Very simply, mitigation is a process by which the impacts of the development on the archaeological resource to best alleviate the negative effects on the archaeological resource. It should be stressed however that mitigation is not appropriate where significant archaeological remains are known to exist within a proposed development. Archaeological contractors will advise the developer, in conjunction with the planning archaeologist, the best way to fulfil the requirements of the condition, with the least damage to the archaeology.

If it is not possible to alter site specifications, such as foundation type, service locations or demolition/major alteration of a historic building, then mitigation will involve the production of a project design that can minimise the impact on the archaeological resource. Preservation in situ is always the preferred option. You will be glad to know that the archaeological conditions are not imposed to provide limitless work for archaeologists, but to protect the limited and fragile resource of our shared heritage.

11. Conclusion

When the implications of an archaeological condition are understood and the project dealt with as early as possible in the application procedure there is little that can delay work on a development. Delays can happen if not enough time has been set-aside in the scheme of works to allow archaeological investigation.

Archaeology has a difficult role in having to advise the developer what is either beneath the ground, or behind a wall without actually knowing the answer. It is true however, that archaeologists are capable of predicting the potential of a site to a degree of accuracy by judging the type of site against similar categories, or viewing the landscape for historical topography (humps and bumps!).

Sometimes though, there will be the unexpected.. a burial where no burial should be… a prehistoric hut that would never have been seen on the ground or from the air. In these cases, a strategy can be evolved to deal with this unforeseen circumstance, which deals with the remains, by either recording or in-situ preservation. Most people are very interested in archaeology until they have to pay for it, but you must think of it as a useful part of your development, archaeology can give you more information than boreholes, can provide accurate plans of a building or produce detailed landscape surveys.

The public relations boost gained from archaeological excavations during major development is another aspect that should not be overlooked. But most of all you must remember that we are all guardians of our heritage, whether it is an old cinema or a prehistoric standing stone, it is a testimony of who we are.

One Page Guide (or what should happen in an ideal world!)

(Remember that this is a very short guide that only gives the most general idea of the process)

1. In many cases, an appraisal of your application by the Planning Archaeologist has led to conditions being recommended to the Council Planning Department. It can be the result of other conditions however.

2. A document is sent to you setting out the background behind the application, the reasons for the archaeological conditions, and reporting arrangements. It will usually specify a minimum acceptable level of work or in many cases a brief. This document may be used to obtain estimates from archaeological contractors.

3. You will then contact a number of archaeological contractors or units, unapproved lists can be found either on the BAJR website under Who’s Who or from the Planning Department Curator, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists Register of Archaeological Organisations or even the Yellow Pages. Provide them with a copy of the planning recommendations so they can produce a tender for you and a written scheme of investigation (WSI) for the planning archaeologist.

4. The Contractor will either send a copy of the WSI directly to the planning archaeologist or you will receive a copy and must forward it yourself, the WSI needs to be approved by the planning archaeologist, to assess that it meets the minimum requirements for this site.

5. No work can begin on the development until the WSI is approved, any work that involves groundbreaking or demolition (depending on the type of works), whether carried out by the developer or archaeologist that takes place prior to approval will constitute a breach of conditions.

6. Phased archaeological work will begin(DBA, Evaluation/Field Survey/Watching Brief etc), and the planning archaeologist may visit to ensure that best practice is being maintained.

7. Once the initial phases of archaeological works (Evaluation) have been completed, the planning archaeologist will either decide to recommend the signing off of the conditions, or will wait until the production of an initial report. Within a phased programme of works, the planning archaeologist will then discuss with the developer and archaeological contractor a suitable strategy if necessary to deal with archaeological features that will be affected by the development.

The preferred option is always preservation in situ – However, in the cases where there is no other alternative, and every avenue of preservation has been explored, then further phases of work will be required – and a mitigation strategy will be developed. This may even lead to full excavation in certain cases.

8. Responsibility for the execution and resourcing of the programme of archaeological work (including any post-excavation work) and for the archiving and appropriate level of publication of the results lies with the applicant with advice given by the planning archaeologist and contractor.

9. If significant archaeological remains are uncovered, the applicant is encouraged to make provision for public accessibility, either through local media involvement, school visits/talk, open days (dependant on site conditions), exhibitions or evening talks. Community involvement should be seen as a positive step in creating both a local sense of history and an important aspect for the development for community well-being.

10. Once the conditions have been met, the archaeological aspect of the planning application will be signed off.


Links and Downloads

  Open this document as a pdf to save or print

  Chartered Institute for Archaeologists

  Archaeology & Development: Guidelines for Good Practice for Developers :: Online Planning Aid

  Royal Town Planning Institute RTPI - 14000 planners across the UK