CIfA comments on ALGAO’s Archaeology in Development Management report.

Last week the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) published a report, Archaeology in Development Management, which presents evidence for the value of commercial and local authority planning archaeology.

The report includes the following statistics:

  • 74% of all archaeologists working in the UK are employed in commercial archaeology
  • Local authority archaeology costs £13-17m per year. Development-led archaeology generates £218m in developer contributions to archaeology. This means that for every £1 spent on local authority planning archaeology, an average return of £15 is generated to support work to enhance knowledge of the historic environment.
  • The overall cost of archaeology is 0.13% of all construction spending, making it a tiny expense for the sector. Meanwhile, archaeological work greatly reduces costs and delays when undertaken early. The report estimates that up to £1.3bn is saved by having appropriate archaeological advice.

The report also lays bare several misconceptions of development management archaeology:

  • Archaeology hardly ever causes projects to fail. Only 0.33% of archaeological projects are not completed due to client business failure. This means that government is not spending large amounts of money to complete projects after developer funding ceases.
  • Only 0.01% of planning applications are rejected for reasons which include archaeology. This means that archaeology is almost never a reason why development does not take place.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that archaeology is a brake on development, does not cause delays to construction, and does not contribute to a failure to meet housing need.

CIfA Chief Executive Peter Hinton said;

This report sets out what the sector has been saying for many years: Archaeology is a positive contributor to sustainable development, delivered through the planning system. It adds value to business and society though managing risk and saving money for developers, and delivering new knowledge and understanding of our pasts to enrich our heritage.

We hope that this report helps to grab the attention of decision-makers in local and national government to reinforce the argument that these services need to be properly funded. The evidence clearly shows that archaeology is a positive contributor to sustainable development. It also closely supports findings of CIfA research into planning case studies, due to be published in the coming weeks. We will work together with ALGAO to present this combined evidence to government.

CIfA believes that the purpose of archaeology in the planning system is to create public benefit to offset harm caused to heritage assets using funding provided by developers under the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Local government archaeological advisors play a critical role in enabling and directing this benefit. We will continue to seek to maximise this public benefit and support and promote systems which enable it.

You can download the full report here.