Infrastructure & Archaeology: What Contractors Need To Know

Archaeology is much more than just digging up artefacts. It leaves a positive legacy for future generations and it adds value to what we build and to the communities we create.

Developer-led archaeology contributes a huge amount to our understanding of the UK’s cultural heritage. And, from a reputational point of view, paying proper attention to archaeology and heritage can cast a positive light for contractors within the communities that are affected by our projects. Archaeology can play an important part in enhancing the reputation of the infrastructure sector as a whole.

The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, the leading professional body for archaeologists working in the UK and overseas, has said that although contractors and clients often get worried about archaeology, thinking it causes delays and costs money, it is not about stopping development – in fact it’s the opposite. If contractors follow best practice guidelines and work with an accredited archaeologist at the pre-planning application stage, this leads to a better understanding of what archaeological work is likely to be needed during a project, and how to conduct it in a way that will be acceptable to the local Planning Authority and Archaeological Officer.

As a contractor, early engagement means that you are much less likely to come upon any surprises later on when you start building on site, which may cause greater delays and higher costs to a project. But if something unexpected turns up when construction has begun, archaeology consultants can be there again to help work with the local authority to come up with a workable solution that won’t delay the site longer than is necessary. If we collaborate early, then delays can be minimised and by using a CIfA accredited archaeologist you will avoid unnecessary work.

CIfA has set out some tips for CECA members when working with archaeologists:

  • Involve archaeologists at the pre-planning stage. Too often we receive a frantic phone call on a Friday afternoon requesting an archaeologist for site the following Monday because ‘no-one realised there was a need for an archaeological excavation’. You might find that by involving us early there is no need for an archaeological excavation.
  • The production of a desk-based assessment or evaluation may not be the end of the archaeological works. Through regular communication further work will not come as a surprise and may be mitigated out. Crucially, good communication is the best way of ensuring that programmes will be met.
  • If there is the need for archaeological works use it to your benefit. Many of our clients talk of faster selling houses or reduced opposition to development when the community has a vested interest in the archaeology of a scheme. Archaeologists are skilled at public engagement and can be the means by which you can meet many of your environmental, community and training KPIs.

Commenting, CIfA Chief Executive Peter Hinton said: “In the UK, much of archaeology is developer-led. At the start of the planning process and during construction, developers and contractors need to take advantage of the opportunities to use archaeology to add value, as well as demonstrating that they have paid appropriate attention to any heritage that they might be affecting.

“Nowadays, ‘archaeology’ includes everything from initial assessment reports, intrusive excavation, watching briefs, conservation, and specialist services such as osteoarchaeology, through to dissemination and public engagement.

“CECA members have an important role to play in ensuring the vital infrastructure they deliver takes into account the important heritage of the UK, and the best means of doing this is to involve a CIfA-registered organisation at an appropriately early stage of schemes.

“That’s why I am delighted to have this opportunity to promote closer ties between industry and archaeologists, which will prevent unnecessary delays to building, maintaining and upgrading the infrastructure we all rely upon. This will lead to optimal outcomes for both the preservation of the UK’s heritage, the degree to which we can learn from the past, and the timely delivery of infrastructure schemes in all parts of the UK.”

To learn more about the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists and how they can help your business, click here.

CIfA has also published a useful Client Guide that you can download here.