We perform a statutory function maintaining baseline historic environmental data (Historic Environment Record) and commenting on county and district development management planning applications, pre-applications and spatial planning consultations. We are also consulted on issues regarding the Hedgerows Regulations from districts and advise water, gas, electricity and telecommunications companies of the likely effects of proposed works.
If you are planning a development, it pays to seek advice from the Devon County Historic Environment Team as early as possible before submitting a planning application. This can save time and money and avoid problems later.
The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists provide this useful online guide Professional archaeology: a guide for clients.
The Devon County Historic Environment Team currently provides archaeological advice for the following Local Planning Authority areas:
- East Devon
- Mid Devon
- North Devon
- South Hams
- West Devon
For developments within Dartmoor National Park and Exmoor National Park, the City of Exeter, Plymouth and Torbay, you will need to contact the historic environment services provided by these authorities.
An initial consultation will show whether there are any known, or likely, archaeological remains within or adjacent to a proposed development. After this preliminary appraisal it may be necessary to commission a fuller desk-based archaeological assessment and/or field evaluation by a professionally qualified archaeological contractor. The report on this work should accompany the planning application, and include an assessment of the likely archaeological effects of the development and any measures proposed to reduce its impact. The Local Planning Authority may defer a planning decision until this information is available.
The first priority is the preservation of important archaeological remains where they are. To achieve this, the archaeological impact of the development could be minimised by, for example, sympathetic foundation design or amendments to the layout to avoid identified archaeology. If this is not feasible, then detailed archaeological excavation, recording and publication of the results will be required. If the archaeological remains are of particular importance to merit preservation in situ then planning permission may not be granted. It is national and local practice that the costs of archaeological work made necessary by development should in most cases be borne by the developer.
The impact of a development upon the Heritage Asset or archaeology of a site is a material consideration for the Local Planning Authority when making a planning decision (see the National Planning Policy Framework). If further archaeological work is necessary this can be secured either by the use of a planning condition, or by a legal agreement under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. A typical planning condition would be:
‘No development shall take place until the applicant has secured the implementation of a programme of archaeological work in accordance with a written scheme of investigation which has been submitted by the applicant and approved by the Planning Authority.’
Such a programme of recording may involve full excavation of the identified archaeology well in advance of development commencing. In other cases, particularly small-scale development, the monitoring and recording or supervision of ground disturbance when the development is underway to enable the identification, investigation and recording of any exposed archaeological remains; this is known as a watching brief.
Where a development has an impact on a historic building, whether listed or not, a planning application may need to be supported by a building evaluation to understand the significance of the historic building and the impact of the development upon it. If planning consent is granted then a programme of historic building recording may be required by the use of a condition on any consent granted.
There is a charge for services provided by the Devon County Historic Environment Team (HET) to developers, archaeological contractors or consultants for commercial projects, or projects that relate to development. Details of the charging schedule can be found here.
Archaeology in practice
Archaeological work, before and during development, can take a number of forms:
Desk-based assessment: a detailed appraisal of available information about a site before a planning application is submitted or approved. Sources of information can be the Devon County Historic Environment Record, published reports in local journals, historic maps and aerial photographs.
Field evaluation: a survey or trial excavation designed to assess the nature, extent and importance of archaeological remains within a proposed development area generally undertaken before a planning application is submitted or approved. Techniques may include fieldwalking, geophysical survey and trial trenching.
Excavation and recording: a controlled programme of fieldwork, usually involving full excavation, with analysis and publication of the findings, to provide a lasting record of archaeological evidence that will otherwise be destroyed by the development.
Monitoring and recording: this comprises of the monitoring, investigation and recording of archaeological evidence coming to light during the course of development that would otherwise be destroyed by the development, also known as a watching brief.
Further information is available from the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) Professional archaeology: a guide for clients.