Archaeology for all - Council for British Archaeology

Archaeology Matters

How you can protect local sites or buildings

I’m worried that a local archaeological site or historic building is going to be affected by a proposed development - what can I do?

Local authorities try to make decisions on planning applications within strict time limits (typically eight weeks from submission for ordinary applications), so time is of the essence. However, if you are concerned that an archaeological site or historic building is under threat there are a number of steps you can take.

Comment on a planning application

All developers must apply for planning permission to the local planning authority before their proposal can go ahead.

As part of the public consultation process, local planning authorities will publicise all planning applications they receive. This will involve notifying residents of proposals affecting their neighbourhood and posting a notice on or near the site. Some authorities will also advertise the proposal in the local newspaper. The application details will normally be posted on their website which is often the quickest way to find out what is current.

Once the planning proposal is made public anyone can comment on it within a set time limit (typically 21 days).

Comments can be made to the local planning authority in writing, and in some cases online (via the local authority’s public access planning portal). If a number of people share your views you can submit a petition or joint letter.

You can find details of your local planning authority here:

Although the local planning authority is not bound to act on all comments it receives, their officers will take public comments into account in their planning decision. Highlighting your concerns about the historic environment in this way can be worthwhile.

Comments will be most effective if they are well informed and can be shown to have broad support.

  • Find information about the planning system and resources for communities looking to get involved.

Apply to have a site or building designated

There are a number of legal controls to protect buildings and sites that are significant for their known national historic and archaeological interest. These include designation as a Listed Building or Scheduled Monument.

Any developer seeking to make changes to a designated site or building must apply for consent to do so.

You can find out if a site or building is designated online:

Northern Ireland

If you find that the site or building that you want to protect is not designated and you have reasons to believe it should be, you can nominate it to the relevant conservation body.

When nominating a site or building try and provide as much information as possible, including: the site's address, its geographic location, the name and contact details of the owner, reasons why you think it may be eligible for designation and current, colour photographs of the exterior and, if possible.

Get a site or building on the local Historic Environment Record

If a site or building is not appropriate for national designation it can still be protected within the planning system.

Local authorities keep their own local records of historic assets. Historic Environment Records (HERs) contain details on local heritage assets, both designated and non-designated and inform planning decisions involving the historic environment. In addition, many planning authorities keep lists of historic buildings and archaeological sites of local significance. These local lists are used to identify aspects of the historic environment that should be considered in planning permission decisions.

It may be possible to search your local Historic Environment Record online:

For England, HERs can be found on Heritage Gateway.

For Wales the HERs of the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts are provided via Archwilio.

For Scotland selected local authorities provide access via PASTMAP.

To nominate a heritage asset for inclusion in a HER or local list you can get in touch with the Historic Environment/Conservation Officer or Archaeologist at your local planning authority. They may also be interested in any new information you might have about a historic building or archaeological site.

Conservation Areas

Local authorities also designate Conservation Areas, containing areas of special architectural or historic interest and distinctive character. Any development involving demolition in a Conservation Area will require special consent. To propose a Conservation Area contact the Historic Environment/Conservation Officer at your local planning authority.

How can I protect an archaeological site or area against future development?

Getting a site nationally designated, or registered on your local Historic Environment Record should protect it from future development, even if it is not yet under threat. Even if development goes ahead, the fact that the site is on the Record will mean that it is taken into account and properly investigated.

How can I protect an archaeological site or area against agriculture or forestry damage?

If the site or building is on the local Historic Environment Record then it should be included in any management plans drawn up by the farmer or land owner.

To propose a site or inclusion in the Historic Environment Record get in touch with your Local Authority Archaeologist.

Scheduled Monuments

Firstly, find out if the site is designated as a Scheduled Monument. If so, works in the vicinity will require consent from the relevant Government Department:

Check if a site is a Scheduled Monument on the relevant online database and, if not, nominate it using the process above:

Schemes and grants

Schemes and grants managed by a range of organisations exist to protect the rural Historic Environment. By alerting the Local Authority Archaeologist to a previously unknown site, or to a known site which you believe to be at risk, you may enable them to negotiate a management plan with the owner that will protect the archaeology.

For more information see Natural England and English Heritage’s report, Farming for the historic environment.

I’m concerned that a site or building is being damaged by neglect - what can I do?

National agencies, like Cadw, English Heritage and Historic Scotland, maintain registers of Heritage at Risk. These identify and record buildings or sites in danger and open the way for the relevant bodies to negotiate with the owner about conservation.

 See Heritage at Risk in:

If the site that you are concerned about is not registered as At Risk there are steps you can take to help to protect it.

  • Look to see if the site or building is designated, so, the local authority can take action directly. Owners of listed buildings are not obliged by law to maintain their property in a good state of repair, although it is in their interests to do so. Local authorities can, however, take action to secure repair when it becomes evident that a building is being allowed to deteriorate. This includes serving Urgent Works Notices and Repairs Notices. See also guidance on local authority action from English Heritage and Historic Scotland.
  •  Get in touch with your local planning authority, even if the site or building is not designated. Let your planning authority know your concerns. It may be that they already have plans for it, or they may be encouraged to develop them.
  • Join, or start, a local society. Local civic societies exist across the country, supported by Civic Voice, as do archaeological, heritage, and history groups. Many of them campaign on matters of importance to their members. You may be able to suggest that they campaign to protect the threatened site or building. A list of regional and local societies can be found via our Archaeology Online service. < works to support such local groups. Handy tips for community campaigning can be found on our Planning Guide.
  • Volunteer with a preservation trust, or try and establish your own. These trusts seek to rescue a building or site by acquiring it and conducting essential repairs, before selling it on. More information can be found on the website of the UK Association of Preservation Trusts.
Share this
Back to top

Participate now!

Join the CBA