Archaeology

Planning applications

The impact that new development can have on sites that contain archaeological remains is a key heritage issue taken into account by the county's eight Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) in determining planning applications.

Northamptonshire County Council provides this specialist archaeological advisory service on belhalf of the eight LPAs. This advisory service provides advice on the potential impact of development on Northamptonshire’s historic environment. Where there could be a potential impact, an archaeological assessment may be required before any planning permission can be determined. In many cases the applicant will be required to commission a specialist contractor to carry out research or field surveys to evaluate the site. 

The archaeological evaluations required, prior to planning determination, may involve survey work, such as geophysical survey or field walking, as well as trial trenching or building survey work.

These processes ensure full consideration of the significance of the archaeology assets found within the proposed development area. Further, the information provided by the results of surveys will allow the LPAs to make an informed decision as to whether development is appropriate.

Archaeological mitigation

The form of mitigation required is dependent on the nature and impact of the development. In most cases the archaeological activity will be preserved by record through a programme of archaeological mitigation. In a limited number of developments, where significant archaeological deposits are identified, preservation in situ is advised. It should be noted that if nationally significant remains are identified during the evaluation process, it is sometimes appropriate to refuse planning permission.

The archaeological mitigation process provides written reports of any findings, plus the archaeological finds recovered from the excavations. It also includes the provision for public engagement and awareness raising, and education in the form of open days, school visits, and talks to local societies. The archaeological reports are deposited within the Northamptonshire County Council Historic Environment Record and are also available online through the Archaeology Data Service.

Archaeology and plan-making

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that LPAs should seek opportunities to achieve the environmental dimensions of sustainable development, which include protecting and enhancing the historic environment. As a consequence, LPAs are tasked with setting out strategic policies to deliver conservation and enhancement of the historic environment. Archaeology is one important aspect of the historic environment that can easily be overlooked.

The NPPF states that planning policies and decisions should be based upon up-to-date information about the environment. With regard to the historic environment, the NPPF recommends that planning authorities should maintain or have access to an up-to-date Historic Environment Record.

Northamptonshire County Council hosts and maintains a Historic Environment Record for the county. This database contains records on archaeological sites, finds, monuments, buildings, parks and gardens. It should be used as part of the evidence base for the development of local planning policy on the historic environment.

The NPPF also states that planning authorities should make information about the significance of the historic environment, gathered as part of plan-making or development management, publicly accessible. The Historic Environment Record is continuously updated with new information, including that arising from archaeological investigations undertaken as development management mitigations.

Pre-application advice and guidance

Early consultation about the possible impact of development proposals can have considerable benefits for prospective developers before any application is submitted.

The archaeological evaluations required, prior to planning decisions being made, may involve survey work, such as geophysical survey or field walking, as well as trial excavation or building survey work. The extent of work required and the techniques used will, however, vary from site to site and case to case.

Once there is sufficient information available about the likely impact of a proposed development upon the historic environment, measures to reduce or mitigate the identified impact can be defined.

Northamptonshire County Council has two planning archaeologists who provide advice and guidance to LPAs in relation to planning application proposals. Initial contact to obtain archaeological advice and guidance should first be made with the relevant LPA. Visit our ‘Local plans and development management’ page for details on each LPA in Northamptonshire.

Copies of all reports from fieldwork are deposited with the Historic Environment Record.