How to support CIfA advocacy

CIfA advocates for archaeology by working to influence policy and decision makers. We build networks and establish trust with politicians, civil servants, sector bodies, and key bodies beyond the sector and we work with those networks when opportunities and threats arise.

You can support this advocacy by

  • providing expert advice to CIfA to support our positions on key advocacy objectives
  • taking part in discussions with Special Interest and Area Groups to help us develop new ideas and to inform advocacy
  • reading and disseminating information from CIfA within your organisation and networks
  • writing to your MP to support CIfA’s advocacy on a relevant issue
  • attending a local surgery or meeting with your elected representatives

There are excellent guides containing tips of how to write to your elected representatives from the Council for British Archaeology and Rescue: The British Trust for Archaeology.

This page sets out our current advocacy campaigns.  It aims to inform you where CIfA has concerns in relation to the protection of the historic environment and to provide you with information to help you write to your MP. You can also download this information as a briefing which you can leave with your representative if you visit a local surgery.

If you would like more information or would like to report back from contact you have had with your MP or other elected representative, please contact rob.lennox@archaeologists.net

Current advocacy campaigns

Planning Reform in England (July-August 2020)

On June 30, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new planning reforms including new permitted development rights and promised a further planning reform White Paper which was published on 6 August. See our full response to the July 30 speech here. We will be publishing an statement very soon and a detailed breifing on the full White Paper soon.  

CIfA has been concerned about progressive relaxation of planning regulations for several years (see a 2016 briefing here). However, the new proposals have set a new bar for radical rhetoric, drawing influence from the think tank Policy Exchange which has long argued for the erosion of the planning system. See CIfA’s response to proposals by Policy Exchange here.

The proposals in the white paper show that the Government is commited to overhauling the planning system with the intention of streamlining processes and giving increased certainty to developers about what they can build and where. There have been widespread criticisms that the policy oversimplifies and lays the ground for a developer's charter. For archaeology and the historic environment CIfA is concerned that archaeological processes have not been considered in devising the plans, and could be adversely impacted by new approaches to 'growth' and 'renewal' areas, where development will be given automatic or assumed permission, subject to complying with a strategic plan and technical details. CIfA will be advocating for greater consideration of where archaeology would fit within this proposed system and seeking to work with MHCLG and others to interrogate the detail of the proposed system and implement changes to protect archaeology.

Our asks

We are asking Government to provide assurance that it is not the intention to weaken safeguards for archaeology and for provision for archaeological investigation to be added into the proposed reform.

We are asking MPs to take note of our concerns and raise the issue in Westminster. We also ask that they sign up to the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group so that they can keep in touch with up to date information on this and other important issues facing archaeology.

Key points

  1. Pre-determination archaeological assessment fulfils the ‘polluter pays’ and ‘precautionary principles’, enshrined within the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The proposed reforms must protect these principles.
    • Most archaeological investigation is funded by developers through the planning system. Planning regulation ensures that environmental harm that would be caused by development is appropriately investigated and mitigated.
    • These planning reform proposals seek to move the onus from developer-fuded site-specific archaeological investigation (pre-detemination) to a strategic planning stage at the point that 'growth' and 'renewal' zones are defined. The cost of improving risk mapping and prior understanding of assets across these zones would likely fall on local authorities and this cost would need to be paid for.
    • Front-loaded assessment of archaeology in growth and renewal areas will still need to be supplmented by site specific investigation to help understand heritage assets on a site and to avoid uneccesary harm to those assets, and mitigate and offset unavoidable harm resulting from development. Government will need to ensure that there are mechanisms to secure this work (via conditions or standards)
    • The proposals need to recognise the importance of undesignated heritage assets, including both buried and upstanding remains.
  1. Archaeological safeguards are effective, efficient, and proportionate. They help to deliver development.
    • Where archaeological work is programmed early in the development process it helps developers reduce the risk of costly delays. It does this by enabling effective identification of the significance of heritage assets which may be present on the site, including assets which are not previously known and helps to design ways to manage them.
    • CIfA undertook research for Historic England in 2019 which collected dozens of examples which showed that archaeological pre-planning work was effective in streamlining development processes and delivering effective protections.
    • This research also collected case studies which show the delay and cost that can result when archaeological assessment is bypassed. The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) estimates that archaeology in the planning system saves developers £1.3b per year in reduced delay costs.
    • Archaeological constraints do not prevent house-building. Fewer than 0.01% of all planning applications are refused for reasons which include archaeology.
    • See the Archaeology in Development Management (ALGAO, 2019) report for additional information and statistics.

 

  1. Planning regulation is not the cause of low building rates.
    • The 2018 independent review by Oliver Letwin found that the planning system was not a barrier to housebuilding. Instead he found that the fundamental driver of ‘build out rates’ is the ‘absorption rate’ – the rate at which homes can be sold without undermining the local market.
    • Housing charity Shelter said 280,000 home were given planning permission in England between 2011 and 2016 but were never built. In 2017-18 382,997 applications were granted – more than enough to meet the government’s target of 300,000 new homes a year.
    • Even developers do not cite archaeology as an impediment to development, with a 2017 survey by Cornerstone Projects Ltd finding that although 85% of companies had experienced delays on recent projects, archaeology and/or planning conditions were not identified as major reasons.

 

  1. Over the last 30-years, planning-led archaeology has revolutionised our understanding of the past and led to public benefit.
    • Archaeological investigation helps us to increase our collective understanding about the past, and provides opportunities for public participation in those discoveries.
    • Without these processes delivering proportionate protections, we would not have made some of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of the past 30 years: The Amesbury Archer, Shakespeare’s London theatres, and the Colchester circus (chariot racing stadium) were all discovered during development-led processes.
    • The Historic England report ‘25-years of archaeological discovery that have rewritten England’s story’ includes information and examples which illustrate how development-led archaeology has yielded incredible discoveries and helped to revolutionise our understanding of the past.
    • A ‘here’s what you could have lost’ map has been created by Matt Thomas and plots just a tiny fraction of the sites which have been investigated through development-led archaeology.