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Consultation on the Pre-Application Consultation and Application Procedures for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (DCLG 2009)

Submission from ALGAO:England

June 2009

The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers for England (ALGAO:England) is the national body representing local government archaeology services at County, District, Metropolitan, Unitary and National Park level in England. ALGAO:England. They provide archaeological advisory services to local authorities, property developers and their agents, and local communities, as well as holding the Historic Environment Records for the country. The Association co-ordinates the views of its member authorities (93 in total) and presents them to government and to other national organisations. It also acts as an advisor to the Local Government Association (LGA) on archaeological matters. The range of interests of our members embraces all aspects of the historic environment including archaeology, buildings and the historic landscape.

We welcome this opportunity to contribute to the facilitation of pre-application consultation procedures for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. Pre-application consultation has been a key element in planning for archaeological and other historic environment projects for many years, and was specifically advocated in Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Archaeology and Planning introduced in November 1990. Our members have, therefore, considerable experience, gained over many years, of ensuring the best outcome for projects through planning for historic environment issues from the very outset. Many major property developers consult us as a matter of routine at the early stages of project planning, so that their pre-application consultations with local planning authorities are already informed by consideration of the historic environment.

General considerations

We are keen to ensure that archaeology, historic buildings and wider historic landscapes and landscape features are adequately assessed in the preparation of Infrastructure Projects. On first reading, these proposals do not seem to cover the entirety of the historic environment, but this impression may be the result of the adoption of measures analogous to the Transport and Works Act (para. 55).

Thus:
Annexe 1 Section 5, para xiii makes only mention of Scheduled Ancient Monuments, but not Listed Buildings or Registered Parks and Gardens or Battlefields, or undesignated archaeology.

  • the list of Consultees, does mention the HBMC(E) but, apparently, not county councils, or even, explicitly, local authorities.
  • The Application Form (Schedule 2) again, Section 18, only makes mention of `scheduled monuments'
  • The `book of reference' Regulations 7: would only seem to refer to (viii) a property appearing on the World Heritage List (although their "Prevention" seems an unlikely objective of the 1972 Convention); and (x) a scheduled monument.

It should be made clear that much of the historic environment is not protected by primary legislation, that scheduled monuments are only a representative selection of the archaeological monuments in this country, and that much more archaeology lies within our counties. ALGAO members provide advice throughout the country on the archaeological implications of proposed projects, and host the Historic Environment Records that provide a vital data source beyond that of the simple Schedule of Monuments.

In that many archaeological sites, including some intrinsically interesting buildings, are not designated there is a wider historic environment to be considered. In the extracts quoted above: Section 5, para xiii; and Section 18 of the application form, both `statutory and non-statutory sites or features of nature conservation, geological or landscape importance' are specifically itemised, and we believe that the statutory and non-statutory historic environment, including archaeological sites, historic buildings and garden and landscape features, should be equally specifically mentioned.

It is true that many of our concerns may be covered by the subsequent Annexe 2 Guidance on Pre-Application Consultation, which does, of course, extol consultation with local authorities (para. 156), including county councils, and access all relevant datasets and sources of advice (paras. 153; 183), which we would presume should embrace Historic Environment Records and advisory services. However we would like to see explicit mention of these, if only to help promoters of schemes. In addition where Environmental Impact Assessments are merited we would expect a thorough coverage of the historic environment in such assessments.

We welcome the fact that archaeology is covered in Annexe 3 Model Provisions (p.116, para. 15), and that the provisions are broadly in line with those established through PPG 16. Model provisions need to be carefully worded. Any reference to watching briefs should be removed, and the comments should specify that a programme of work needs to be clearly agreed, either within the Environmental Statement or immediately following permission, based on the results of evaluation undertaken for the ES .

However we do have concerns that the subsequent para. 16 `Works to listed buildings or scheduled monuments' has been left blank, and apparently overlooked, as such works may also have an archaeological element to them, as well as wider considerations.

A further consideration in Annexe 3 is the provisions for the removal of human remains (p91). Whilst these are designed to cover any eventualities, including relatively recent burials, many burial grounds that have to be cleared are of some age, recent burial will not be an issue, but the archaeological and historical evidence that lies there can be of considerable interest. Whilst nothing in these provisions need prevent it, we would like to see explicit recognition of the potential archaeological interest in human remains, and archaeological excavation as a proper and respectful method of treatment of these remains.

Consultation questions

Question 1. In that statutory consultees for the historic environment have only a narrow remit, we would suggest that it should be explicit that local planning authorities, including county councils, should be either in this list or an accompanying list, i.e. statutory and non-statutory bodies or stakeholders. For instance consultation of English Heritage alone will not capture the full extent of the historic environment, much of which is curated at local or county level.

Question 3. We believe that the application form should consider both statutory and non-statutory elements of the historic environment, through consultation with the relevant Historic Environment Records, and to encompass archaeology in addition to scheduled monuments; listed buildings and other historic structures; registered parks and gardens and battlefields; and wider landscapes of historic character, where relevant.

Questions 4 & 5. Historic environment information can best be presented in a Desk-based Assessment. This may include locational maps, of areas, sites, or findspots, and possibly historic maps. In many cases this can be delivered electronically with sites and areas captured as GIS polygons, and underlying datasets linked to the locational information. This does require GIS and the ability to use it. However all such information can be presented as hard copy, too. Other key data can be delivered in a similar way, rather as local plan constraints maps, of course the use of GIS enables layers of information to be turned on and off that may aid clarity of presentation.

Nevertheless raw data alone is not enough and the Assessment plays an important role in interpreting and assessing, particularly the relative level of importance of the various elements of the historic environment, and their capacity to withstand change.

Questions 11-13. We welcome the fact that a wide range of stakeholders are envisaged to be consulted, which should capture the widest relevant information. Community groups, particularly local history and archaeology societies, in addition to archaeology advisory services, may well be able to supplement information held in Historic Environment Records.

Questions 15-17. Fuller coverage of the range of historic environment matters is needed, whilst archaeology is covered, works to Listed Buildings, scheduled monuments, and in the context of World Heritage Sites, needs further consideration and amplification.

Questions 23 & 24. Whilst we fully support the Habitats Directive, and the proposals to cover these considerations for the natural environment, we would also promote a similar thorough coverage of the historic environment. The Valletta Convention sets out the EU's objectives for our heritage. The Government's various laws to protect the historic environment, through the Ancient Monuments Act; Planning Acts; as well as a number of supporting planning guidance documents, notably PPGs 15 & 16 (shortly to be replaced as PPS 15), and the Government's intentions for the historic environment signalled by the consultation draft Heritage Bill and supporting guidance, are all evidence for their support for the principles of the Convention.

To that end, greater recognition of the historic environment, and the very real impact that major infrastructure projects may well have on it, must be written into any Pre-Application Guidance, and would valuably enhance these proposals.