The Planning Process

The legal basis allowing planning authorities to require prospective developers, whether individuals or corporate bodies to carry out archaeological work is based upon a set of guidelines known as ‘Planning & Policy Guidelines 16’ (PPG16). Essentially, these work upon the principle that the developer pays for the research to determine whether remains of significance are likely to be impacted and, if so, for their preservation or recording.

The financial implications of the requirement to carry out archaeological work can be significant. Therefore, it is normally advisable to carry out archaeological enquiry prior to gaining full planning consent, rather than dealing with it ‘post-determination’ as a condition of planning consent since, in the latter case, the financial risk is unquantified. The first stage of archaeological or cultural heritage interest in a development comes following the submission of a planning application (or sometimes when seeking pre-planning advise). As part of the determination process, each application is considered by the responsible Planning Archaeologist who may decide that there are grounds for seeing further information about the archaeology or cultural heritage of the site. This decision is often based upon consultation of the relevant county Heritage Environment Record (HER), which is a database of known sites of importance in the county. In such cases, the most likely course of action by the County Archaeologist is to advise the Planning Officer to seek further information by requesting an Archaeological Assessment of the site concerned. Alternatively, but less commonly, if the site comprises buildings of known interest or is on the site of known archaeological remains, the assessment phase may be by-passed in favour of immediate Evaluation or Mitigation. The Mitigation phase is usually carried out following determination of planning consent and can involve recording by survey, photography or excavation, or a watching brief.