Protecting archaeological services - suggestion on what you can do

CIfA plays a very active role in trying to ensure the protection of archaeological services, lobbying all UK governments to maintain the requirement for these services in their current and future legislation and policy. It has also made the case directly to local authorities, describing some of the exciting new knowledge from developer-funded archaeology, and emphasising that this has only happened because planning authorities have had access to professional archaeological advice.

The approach to managing historic environment through development control has delivered a huge amount of new knowledge about the UK’s past, and has been used to engage communities and share new understandings of a place in ways that bring genuine public benefit. This system has been in place for nearly 30 years since PPG16, and we fundamentally believe that when it is effectively resourced it is effective at preventing or mitigating unnecessary harm to heritage assets, or offsetting it through the create of public benefits.

We also get involved at a local level, and would encourage you as Council Tax payers to make your own representations to ensure these services are protected.

As a starting point The Archaeology Forum's briefing document Why Local Government needs Archaeological Advisors provides useful guidance on the importance of archaeological services.

We have also found the following paragraphs have proved useful in our own advocacy to prevent severe cuts to local services.

  • First, authorities must retain an adequate level of expertise to be able to comply with planning requirement. The NPPF is quite clear that archaeological knowledge and understanding are necessary to ensure informed planning decisions are made about the protection of designated and undesignated heritage assets (NPPF paras 126-141, 156, 157, 169, 170). Vitally this includes maintaining an up-to-date Historic Environment Record.

  • 'Secondly, where the public benefits of a particular development proposal result in the justifiable loss of sites and monuments, there is likely to be a strong case for the planning authority to require the applicant to commission a programme of investigation, excavation, analysis and publication of the results, including opportunities for voluntary sector and community participation (NPPF paras 17, 133, 141). [Your authority has an excellent track record of securing such outcomes]. This is normally secured by planning conditions or obligations: without professional historic environment advice to planners this responsibility cannot be adequately discharged and important elements of your area's heritage will be lost without record.

  • Thirdly, the role of planning archaeologists in applying such conditions is critical to levering in private sector investment in archaeology. I am sure your officers will have the figures for your area, but nationally the picture is one of each post bringing in c £1m annually of such inward investment – an annual return of 30 to 40 times the cost of employment.

  • Fourthly, this investment is directly applied through the planning process to bringing communities new understanding and enjoyment. It is a major contribution to quality of life and sense of place for the people of your area. It is something that your authority should be proud of. Such dividends are rarely equaled by other sectors and should not be put at risk.

Depending on the political and economic complexion of the authority and area it serves it may be helpful to identify archaeology's role in contributing to the Big Society agenda, and the contribution of archaeology to local and national tourist income etc. It is important to convey the local authority's responsibilities, the benefits it obtains from acting on them, and the political and potentially legal consequences of disregarding them.

Correspondence does get noticed and especially so, for Councillors, if it looks like votes may be at risk.

If you know of any threats to the service in your area please let us know, and please give us feedback on your experiences and whether the information here has proved useful.