Desk-Based Assessment

Specification for Historic Environment Desk-Based Assessment

  1. Introduction and Archaeological Background

    1. This specification, prepared by the Devon County Historic Environment Team (HET) sets out the scope of the archaeological works required either:
      1. to inform the submission of a planning application,
      2. to inform a programme of archaeological fieldwork, or
      3. as the first stage of archaeological work required by an archaeological condition that has been applied to a planning consent.
    2. Based on the results of the desk-based assessment further archaeological works may be required.  These will be undertaken in accordance with the relevant HET specification for the next stage of works. These can be accessed on the Devon County Historic Environment webpage – Environment and Planning.
    3. If required by a condition, the usual wording of such a condition is as follows:
    4. “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 Local Planning Authority.  The development shall be carried out at all times in strict accordance with the approved scheme, or such other details as may be subsequently agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority.”
    5. The principal objective of the programme shall be to gain an understanding of the archaeological potential of the area under consideration. The results of this work would enable the archaeological potential of the site to be understood and enable one or more of the following:
      1. the formulation of a strategy to ensure the recording, preservation or management of the resource
      2. the formulation of a strategy for further investigation, whether or not intrusive, where the character and value of the resource is not sufficiently defined to permit a mitigation strategy or other response to be devised
      3. the formulation of a proposal for further archaeological investigation within a programme of research
    6. The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists defines desk-based assessment as “a programme of assessment of the known or potential archaeological resource within a specified area or site on land, inter-tidal zone or underwater. It consists of a collation of existing written, 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” field evaluation as “a limited programme of non-intrusive and/or intrusive fieldwork which determines the presence or absence of archaeological features, structures, deposits, artefacts or ecofacts within a specified area or site on land, inter-tidal zone or underwater. If such archaeological remains are present field evaluation defines their character, extent, quality and preservation, and enables an assessment of their worth in a local, regional, national or international context as appropriate.” CIfA Standard and Guidance for Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment.
  2. Written Scheme of Investigation or Project Design

    1. This specification sets out the scope of the works required to enable the archaeological potential of a site to be understood.
    2. If work is being undertaken as a condition of consent granted it will form the basis of the Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI) to be prepared by the archaeological consultant.
    3. The WSI must be submitted by the applicant or, on their behalf, by their agent or archaeological consultant and approved by the HET prior to any research commencing.
    4. If this work is being undertaken to comply with an archaeological condition then the WSI must also be submitted to the Planning Authority and formally approved prior to any development commencing.
  3. Programme of Archaeological Works

    1. Desk-based assessment

      1. A programme of desk-based research will need to be undertaken to inform the archaeological fieldwork, and enable finds and features identified to be understood in their context. This work will be undertaken in advance of any fieldwork commencing. The scope of the desk-based research will conform to one of the three levels of work set out below – Levels 1 – 2.
      2. Guidance will be provided by the HET on a site-by-site basis on the appropriate level of desk-based work that is required for a particular scheme.
        1. Level 1 – Rapid desk-based assessment:
          1. The programme of work shall include an element of desk-based research to place the development site into its historic and archaeological context. This work will consist of map regression based on the Ordnance Survey maps and the Tithe Map(s) and Apportionments. An examination will also be made of records and aerial photographs held by the HER. In addition, it will involve the examination of other known relevant cartographic, documentary and photographic sources held by the Devon County Council Historic Environment Record and at the Devon Heritage Centre.
        2. Level 2 – Comprehensive desk-based assessment
          1. The programme of work shall include comprehensive desk-based research to allow the historic and archaeological context of the site to be fully understood. This work will, as a minimum, consist of:
            1. An examination of material currently held in the Devon County Council Historic Environment Record, County Hall, Exeter.
            2. An examination of cartographic, printed and documentary sources available in the Devon Heritage Centre, Great Moor House, Bittern Road, Sowton, Exeter.
            3. A site inspection of the proposed development site.
            4. The inspection of any available test pits or geotechnical logs.
            5. An examination of cartographic, printed and documentary sources available in the North Devon Record Office, North Devon Local Studies Centre, Tuly Street, Barnstaple if the development is in Torridge or North Devon districts.
            6. Examination of local/National museums/collections, Public Record Office and the Historic England Archive as appropriate.
            7. A programme of field walking for the recovery of artefacts – if appropriate to the site.
            8. Other sources may be suggested by the HET in their advice letter.
  1. Reporting

    1. Upon completion of the research an illustrated report will be prepared.
    2. The report should contain as a minimum:
      1. non-technical summary
      2. introductory statements
      3. aims and purpose of assessment methodology
      4. an objective summary statement of results
      5. conclusion, including an assessment of the significance of any heritage assets identified as well as an assessment of the impact of the proposed development upon them
      6. supporting illustrations, plans, maps, photographs, etc. at appropriate scales
      7. supporting data, tabulated or in appendices
      8. references
    3. The timetable for the production of the report must be set out in the Written Scheme of Investigation.
    4. It is recommended that a draft report is submitted to the HET for comment prior to its formal submission to the Planning Authority.
    5. On completion of the final report, in addition to copies required by the Client, a digital copy of the report – in a format agreed in advance with the HET – will be submitted to the HET on the understanding that it will be deposited for public reference in the HER, and that it will be made available to researchers via a web-based version of the HER.
    6. The archaeological consultant shall complete an online OASIS (Online AccesS to the Index of archaeological investigationS) form in respect of the archaeological work. This will include the uploading of a digital version of the report. The report will also include the OASIS ID number.
  2. Personnel

    1. The work shall be carried out by a recognised archaeological consultant, agreed with the DCHET. Staff must be suitably qualified and experienced for their project roles. All work should be carried out under the control of a specified Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIfA), or by a specified person of equivalent standing and expertise. The WSI will contain details of key project staff and specialists who may contribute during the course of the works – excavation and post-excavation.
    2. All staff, including subcontractors, must be fully briefed and aware of the archaeological work required under the specification and written scheme of investigation, and must understand the aims and methodologies of the project.
    3. Health and Safety matters, including site security, are matters for the consultant. However, adherence to all relevant regulations will be required.
    4. The work shall be carried out in accordance with CIfA Standard and Guidance for Historic Environment Desk-Based Assessment.
  3. Deposition of Archive and Finds

    1. There is no requirement for the archaeological consultant to prepare an archive for desk-based research. However, a digital copy of the report must be deposited with the HER and an OASIS entry completed and report uploaded.

Revised: 28th November 2021