Reducing heritage risk

The potential for developments to cause harm to heritage assets is a material consideration within the planning process throughout the UK. This extends beyond just physical harm to include harm arising from change within the surroundings of heritage assets.

Many heritage assets are very visible, and others are buried but their existence is known from previous investigations or examinations of source data. However, a large percentage of buried archaeological sites remain unknown and are only identified when a development proposal is brought forward. To avoid project delays and incurring unforeseen costs, take a look at our top tips and things to avoid when reducing archaeological risk on site.

Download our free flow chart on archaeological advice and planning applications

✔ Top tips

  • Due diligence – undertake a rapid heritage constraints appraisal before buying or leasing or optioning a potential development site
  • Produce design options that show how heritage assets have been considered within the design process and how impacts on heritage assets have been avoided or reduced
  • Proactively raise the issue of heritage at pre-application discussions with the local planning authority
  • Engage with the local planning authority’s archaeology advisors and conservation officers at the earliest possible opportunity if heritage is seen as a potential issue with regard to the development
  • Engage with other statutory consultees as early as possible if their involvement is likely to happen anyway
  • Be realistic with timings – a phased programme of archaeological investigation can take months rather than weeks and is often required at pre-submission or pre-determination stage
  • Work undertaken at pre-submission or pre-determination stage can often reduce cost and programme risk at construction stage
  • The setting and / or significance of a heritage asset, and the perceived level of harm caused by a proposed development, are subjective issues that now come with considerable amounts of guidance, decisions and case-law – specialist advice from a competent heritage consultant can be crucial

× Things to avoid

  • Don’t get too far into the design process before considering heritage constraints – this can affect viability as well as the outcome of the application process
  • Don’t expect local planning authorities to identify all heritage concerns at pre-application stage – they will probably focus more on the principle of the proposed development
  • Don’t ignore requests for pre-submission archaeological investigations – this will potentially hold up the determination process
  • Don’t underestimate the power of public opinion – heritage is an emotive issue so be prepared to engage with local organisations and keep them informed

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