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Archaeology Matters

Planning the Planning Bill

CBA and colleagues in the archaeology sector have been actively lobbying Government over proposals, included as part of the Housing and Planning Bill, to introduce an automatic planning permission in principle for areas of land, including the vast majority of brownfield sites, in order to speed up housebuilding.

It is likely that in most cases this permission will be given without any archaeological evaluation to identify possible issues in advance of development, with only a final ‘technical details’ stage at which to consider archaeological mitigation. This would rule out any realistic possibility of a planning authority preventing the development of a piece of allocated land, regardless of the extent of archaeological remains discovered.

CBA Director Mike Heyworth has been briefing peers at Westminster about these concerns ahead of debates in the House of Lords, which took place last week. Baroness Andrews raised the key archaeological concerns in a House of Lords debate on 20 April. She said:

“[The presence of] Archaeology is not an exception, as the Government seem to argue, but is the predictable and likely collateral damage in a situation where decisions are taken without full knowledge of what is under a site. New and unanticipated archaeological discoveries are made every day—witness the magnificent Roman villa discovered in Wiltshire last week, which people had no idea about and which may turn out to have international significance in terms of the extent of the Roman Empire and the villa’s great wealth and so on. It is very important.”

She also asked the CLG Minister to meet with the CBA and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA)  to discuss these concerns face to face. She also quoted directly from a recent CBA consultation response which summarises our concerns. 

The CBA continues to work closely with CIfA colleagues, and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO), to point out to Government the danger that this approach will increase risks for developers, as well as undermine protections for archaeology. No developer wants unexpected archaeological remains to be uncovered in the middle of the development work. Normally the planning system provides a mechanism to ascertain any archaeological issues well in advance so that appropriate mitigation strategies can be put in place.

The CBA is continuing to press for these issues to be addressed in the secondary legislation and guidance which underpins the Bill. The Government has at least agreed that permissions in principle can subsequently be modified or revoked, but with costs falling on the local planning authority so it is questionable how often this power will be used.

A CBA briefing on the Housing and Planning Bill can be read here. Details of 73 pilot projects being launched to test the application of ‘Brownfield registers’, which will be used to facilitate permission in principle can be found here. If you live in a pilot area and want to help the CBA monitor brownfield sites of archaeological interest, get it touch with us at lhen@archaeologyuk.org or visit the Local Heritage Engagement Network pages for advice.

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