PPS 6: Planning, Archaeology and The Built Heritage
Archaeological Sites and Monuments: Policy BH 4
Justification and Amplification
3.14 In some circumstances it will be possible to permit development proposals which affect archaeological remains to proceed provided appropriate archaeological mitigation measures are in place which preserve the remains in the final development or ensure excavation recording prior to destruction.
3.15 Mitigation may require design alterations to development schemes, for example, the use of foundations which avoid disturbing the remains altogether or minimise the potential damage, or by the careful siting of landscaped or open space areas. There are techniques available for sealing archaeological remains underneath buildings or landscaping, thus securing their preservation for the future even though they remain inaccessible for the time being.
3.16 The excavation recording of remains is regarded by the Department as a second best option to their physical preservation. The science of archaeology is developing rapidly and excavation means the total destruction of evidence (apart from removable objects) from which future techniques could almost certainly extract more information than is currently possible. Excavation is also expensive and time consuming, and discoveries may have to be evaluated in a hurry against an inadequate research framework. The preservation in situ of important archaeological remains is therefore always to be preferred.
3.17 There will however be occasions, particularly where archaeological remains of lesser importance are involved when the Department may decide that the significance of the remains is not sufficient when weighed against all other material considerations, including the importance of the development, to justify their physical preservation in situ and that the development should proceed. In such cases developers will be required to prepare and carry out a programme of archaeological works using professional archaeologists and working to a brief prepared by the Department.
3.18 In certain cases the Department may be able to offer some financial support for archaeological mitigation to be carried out where the developer is a registered charity or similar non profit-making body, or in the case of an individual who does not have the means to fund such work. The Department must however be extremely selective in its choice of projects for funding. The excavation strategy must reflect current academic research priorities identified in consultation with Environment and Heritage Service. Funds will not be made available unless the destruction of a site is imminent and unavoidable, as the result of planning approval and the Department will have regard for the cost of archaeological mitigation set against the overall cost of the development.
3.19 It should be noted that an offer to facilitate excavation by developers will not justify a grant of planning permission for development which would damage or destroy archaeological remains whose physical preservation in situ is both desirable (because of their level of importance) and feasible.
Discovery of Previously Unknown Archaeological Remains
3.20 Archaeological research continues and new and exciting discoveries are made. The discovery of archaeological remains, which have not been previously known, may therefore represent a material change which can affect the nature of development which will be permitted in respect of an area within a settlement, or in the countryside.
3.21 Indeed in spite of the best pre-planning application research there may be occasions when the presence of archaeological remains only becomes apparent once an approved development has actually commenced 5 . Developers may wish to consider insuring themselves against the risk of a substantial loss while safeguarding the interest of historic remains unexpectedly discovered on site. On rare occasions the importance of such remains may merit their scheduling. In that event developers would need to seek separate scheduled monument consent before they continue work. It is also open to the Department to revoke a planning permission if deemed necessary, in which case there is provision for compensation. In the majority of cases, however, it should prove possible for differences to be resolved through voluntary discussion and for a satisfactory compromise to be reached.
5 The Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (NI) Order 1995 requires the reporting of the discovery of any archaeological object.