Archaeological Standards and Guidance What are they for and who sets them? Online discussion on 10–11 May

The online discussion will focus on the following questions:

1. A new vision for 2017 and beyond?

Notwithstanding the changes in planning policy, is the Southport vision is still relevant? Can we construct a new vision for 2017 and beyond?

What outcomes do we want to achieve and what should standards therefore contain?

The 2017 review of Southport concluded that the current framework of standards and guidance is the most robust infrastructure that the archaeological profession has yet had but that there is not yet a consistent commitment to common standards, nor sufficient training to support implementation. Some of the issues identified by the review were:
• A disconnect between policy and practice, with organisations not consistently investing in internal communications and training, and individuals not consistently relating their personal work to the underpinning standard.
• A reluctance to specify the use of accredited expertise, and assumptions that to do so is anti- competitive or disenfranchises the voluntary and enthusiast sector.
• Managing the tension between demands for more tightly defined process standards than the CIfA 
outcome-based model, and the need to encourage innovation and creativity.

See more on the Southport vision in Background below; the Southport report and Taryn Nixon’s 2017 review of progress with its recommendations can be accessed via the links in References and source material below.

2. Roles and responsibilities – who sets standards?

Many organisations are involved in producing standards and guidance; do we yet have a common understanding about roles and responsibilities or are we all competing with each other? Who should lead on what?

What are the respective roles of Historic England, professional institutes, local authorities and how do they inter-relate?

3. How are standards implemented and enforced?

Formally the only enforcement routes for standards are through:

• the statutory processes: ancient monuments legislation and policy, and the planning process: legislation, policy and government guidance
• the professional institute through accreditation, registration and professional conduct processes
• contractual arrangements where standards are specified 

Do we understand regulation and enforcement, and do we have confidence in the way that the profession is regulated? Do we have a ‘culture of confident professionalism’ that Southport spoke of? 
What does it mean to be professional and to whom are we responsible? 

4. New thinking on methodology and standards - how do we capitalise on the lessons of synthesis projects, and translate them into professional practice?

After 25+ years of modern development-led archaeological investigation a number of national synthesis projects have utilised the outputs from this work to re-examine the archaeology of particular periods. The most extensive is probably the Roman Rural Settlement project which has looked at more than 3500 archaeological published and grey literature reports. Apart from a new perspective on the period this has enabled a reflection on methodological issues, including calls for a more standardised approach to recording, sampling, artefact retrieval and analysis, and reporting. 

5. How much should we be prescribing methods as opposed to seeking outcomes?
Does the former prevent innovation? How can we raise standards and translate good practice into best practice? How can we raise standards, achieve consistency and yet inspire innovation? 

6. Should improving standards make our work more cost-effective or will they add cost?

Standards and guidance in archaeology – what are they for and who sets them? Background material

The Southport Vision (2011)

Following the publication of Planning Policy Statement 5 Planning for the Historic Environment and The Government’s Statement on the Historic Environment for England in 2010, the Southport group (convened at the IfA conference at Southport that year) responded with a vision and a set of recommendations for planning- led investigation in the historic environment. The vision was ambitious, sought ‘delivery of a range of powerful and imaginative public benefits’ and ‘planning-led investigation and explanation of the historic environment (that) should be commissioned to comply with clear professional standards for person, process and product’. Under Quality Management the specific vision (supported by eight recommendations) was that:

• Work should be led by accredited experts working to a full range of agreed professional standards for types of work and their products
• Professional standards and guidance supplement and replace as appropriate government guidance on the implementation of PPS5 and its successors
• Guidance defines and uses consistently the terminology of PPS5
• Guidance helps the exercise of professional judgement on what is proportionate and reasonable
• There is a greater expectation of and dependence on professional accountability for complying with 
ethical and technical standards and less reliance on local authority historic environment staff to 
monitor quality
• Expert archaeological practitioners should have the opportunity to apply for Chartered status 

PPS 5 was soon replaced by the National Planning Policy Framework (2012) and in the following five years the political, economic and social context has changed considerably. A review of the vision and the recommendations of Southport - What about Southport? - and this changed context was undertaken recently for CIfA. The original report and the review can be accessed via the links below. 

The framework in 2017: codes, standards, guidance, legislation, advice...

Professional standards

The professional quality framework that applies to all CIfA professionals is provided by the Institute’s Code of Conduct, and specific Standards and Guidance on thirteen topics, principally types of archaeological investigation or advice given by organisations within the sector, eg desk-based assessment, excavation, consultancy advice, curatorial advice. The Standard defines the desired outcome; the Guidance seeks to define current good practice, indicating how the Standard and the Institute’s Code of Conduct can be adhered to. These documents are enforceable via the professional conduct procedures by which accredited professionals and registered organisations of the institute are held to account. They are not binding on non-accredited practitioners – unless stipulated in a contract - but may still influence their work. They are cited in the Historic Environment Good Practice Advice in Planning notes (see below).

Legislation and supporting guidance

A very high proportion of archaeological investigation in England is generated by the need to assess the significance of, or carry out recording of, heritage assets to be affected by development. Other types of investigation may result from university-led or personal research, works necessary to enable improved management of an archaeological site or structure, or community projects.

Where archaeological investigation in connection with development is concerned overarching government policy is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (2012) replacing, amongst many other documents, the previous specific heritage policy (Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment, 2010). The subsequent Taylor review (2012) which considered the then ‘7,000 plus pages of Government Planning Practice guidance’..., and subsequent government policy, has sought to restrict the amount of guidance developed to support the implementation of the NPPF. Accordingly the National Planning Practice Guidance (2014) is comparatively brief in its explanation of the policy framework that it supports.

For the small proportion of heritage assets that are scheduled monuments the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and the DCMS statement of government policy (2013) towards their management will be the starting point. The latter also covers nationally important but non-scheduled monuments (cf paragraph 139 of the NPPF).

Sector-generated guidance

Following publication of the NPPF and NPPG Historic England, with sector support, produced three Historic Environment Good Practice Advice in Planning notes ‘to provide more detailed guidance to assist local authorities, planning and other consultants, owners, applicants and other interested parties in implementing historic environment policy in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the related guidance given in the National Planning Practice Guide (NPPG)’. While advisory, these documents produced by the government’s statutory adviser with sector support are intended to have weight in the planning process.

While the Historic England good practice advice notes were produced with the support of DCLG the production of additional advice is discouraged unless a clear need can be demonstrated. A current example of the latter is DCLG’s support for a collaborative revision of the Mineral Extraction and Archaeology: A Practice Guide (2008) in preparation by the Minerals and Historic Environment Forum.

Historic England also produces and funds a wide range of technical guidance and advice on, for example, the management of the historic environment; specific types of sites, buildings or landscapes; survey; archaeological science, and other topics not directly linked to any statutory processes.

Other organisations within the heritage sector also produce a large quantity of advice and guidance to assist in the understanding and management of the historic environment. It varies considerably in its purpose, content and format and while much of it is produced by individual organisations, an increasing amount is produced collaboratively.

Local authorities may produce their own guidance aimed at applicants for planning permission for development.

To guide projects undertaken by voluntary groups and researchers in particular the CBA has produced the Introduction to Standards and Guidance in Archaeological Practice, with modular content linked to the CIfA standards.

The Heritage Lottery Fund produces guidance for applicants undertaking projects with an archaeological component.

Current initiatives

The Historic Environment Forum is proposing a mapping exercise of all relevant sector documents, how they fit together hierarchically, where ownership sits, and what weight or status they have, and if/how they are intended to be enforceable; a gap analysis to identify significant gaps in advice produced by the sector; and a strategy for the production of standards and advice by the sector whether by individual organisations or collaboratively.

Historic England is commissioning a ‘needs’ piece of research to determine the extent to which Historic England’s online advice and guidance is getting the right information across to the right people in the most effective and accessible way.

CIfA, in partnership with and funded by Historic England, is convening online discussion and workshops that will inform its future approach to the production of standards and guidance. While Workshop 2 focuses on standards and guidance it is anticipated that others in the series will produce recommendations relevant to (for example) standards in archaeological archiving, techniques and recording in the field, reporting and publication, and the protection and management of heritage assets.

References and source material

Planning Policy 5: Planning for the Historic Environment:

Realising the benefits of planning-led investigation in the historic environment: a framework for delivery, Southport Group 2011:

What about Southport? A report to CIfA on progress against the vision and recommendations of the Southport Report (2011), Taryn Nixon 2017:

National Planning Policy Framework, DCLG 2012:

National Planning Practice Guide 2014:

Historic Environment Good Practice Advice in Planning Note 2, Managing Significance in Decision-Taking in the Historic Environment, Historic England 2015:

Chartered Institute for Archaeologists Code of Conduct and Standards and Guidance:

Mineral extraction and archaeology: a practice guide, 2008:

Historic England advice and guidance catalogue:

Local authority guidance, for example:

Council for British Archaeology guidance:

Heritage Lottery Fund guidance:

Roman Rural Settlement project methodology papers: study/

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