Archaeology and development – type of monitoring

When asked to comment on applications we can recommend several methods of archaeological fieldwork. The HER staff do not carry out any type of monitoring or fieldwork. If you have an archaeological condition of your planning application, you need to contact an archaeological contractor or consultant.

The following are some examples of the level of monitoring that may be required.

Archaeological observation, investigation and recording

Archaeological observation, investigation and recording is where your groundwork is monitored by an archaeologist. Should archaeological remains be encountered, the archaeologist is allowed the time to make a record of these, before work continues. The watching brief fits in around the developer's timetable and should not cause delay to the developer, unless agreed. This form of monitoring will be conducted during the development process. It would only be carried out when permission is granted for a planning application and an archaeological condition has been attached.

Building recording

When proposed works are associated with a building or structure, which may be of historical or archaeological importance, it may be necessary to ask for building recording works to take place prior to any works starting. This may be in the form of a photographic survey with written descriptions of any features remaining in the building, measurements and drawn records. Time must be allowed for such works to be undertaken prior to any development or demolition.

Archaeological evaluation

Where development is expected to have a significant impact on the archaeology, a prior field evaluation of the site may be requested. In general, a field evaluation will consist of one, or a combination, of the following-

  • a geophysical survey - below ground sensing
  • a survey of earthwork remains
  • programme of fieldwalking
  • programme of coring
  • monitored topsoil strip and targeted excavation of archaeological features
  • trial trenching - the digging of exploratory trenches

The aim of the evaluation is to determine the exact scale, location, nature, depth and significance of the archaeology within the development area. This form of archaeological work can be undertaken prior to submitting a planning application. The results of the evaluation can then be combined with any planning application that is made.

What happens next

When the results of the first archaeological evaluation are available, we are in a better position to look at the impact of the development on any archaeological remains and to talk about the measures that we need to take to reduce any damage to the archaeology.

There are three main ways in which archaeology can be preserved within a development -

  • the development can be designed around the archaeology, for example significant remains can be left unaffected within pockets of open space.
  • where deposits lie below a certain depth, the use of shallow foundations, such as raft foundations, means that archaeology can remain protected beneath the development.
  • where destruction is unavoidable, full excavation, followed by post-excavation analysis and publication of results, may be required prior to the development commencing. This is known as preservation by record.

The End Result

Once suitable mitigation measures have been agreed and implemented, the development may go ahead (subject to planning permission and other planning constraints). The results of any archaeological fieldwork that has taken place, such as an evaluation or excavation, is added to the historic environment record. There may also be a need to publish an account or summary in an archaeological journal.

The information obtained from this process will then assist in the giving of future advice.

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