It’s been a frenetic year at Armour Heritage HQ and a thoroughly enjoyable one to boot. Despite the looming Brexit turkey, we have continued to increase our market share with a significant rise in the production of Heritage Statements, desk based work and bespoke heritage appraisals, with a number of cases of heritage related matters undertaken through Chambers in London. Fieldwork hasn’t disappointed either, with the number of projects from small evaluations and watching briefs, to larger extensive trenching projects and full scale mitigatory excavations increasing across the board.
We are now regularly working across the south and east of the UK, from Cornwall to Kent, up to Norfolk, Leicestershire and beyond. With the help of a highly experienced team of sub-contractors, we have been able to ensure that no matter where in the UK heritage and archaeology needs consideration, we can continue to provide our valued client with a local service at a proportionate cost with bespoke considered independent advice.
We wish all our clients and sub-contractors a restful, merry Christmas and are looking forward to working with you all in 2019.
The sun is continuing to shine at Armour Heritage HQ, and with it we’re pleased to report a significant increase in project work across the sectors in 2018. Fieldwork has been busy, with many of our clients taking advantage of the long hot summer days to clear conditions relating to excavations and watching briefs on their developments. There has been plenty of predetermination work underway too, with trenching and geophysical surveys being completed across a variety of developments, happily including a few new solar PV sites too. As ever, the archaeology has been a bit hit and miss, with a number of very interesting sites alongside some very dull ones too!
Heritage statements and desk based assessments continue to be our mainstay, with a marked increase in our workload across the southwest, southeast and midlands areas. We have a well-travelled path now from West Cornwall to Kent and increasingly have been venturing north of the M5 up to Leicestershire and beyond, with numerous places in between. The schemes are varied, but we continue to provide professional, independent advice through bespoke NPPF compliant heritage reports to our valued regular and new clients alike.
Not surprisingly, some of the work has been noticeably regional with an increase in proposals to convert agricultural buildings conspicuous in the southwest and new builds and regeneration schemes more common in the southeast. Providing advice and recommendations on Listed Buildings and works in Conservation Areas spans the regions and has been on the increase with schemes ranging from demolition to conversion of Listed Buildings to new builds potentially impacting on the setting of heritage assets.
Whilst the work streams continue to flow, we were also delighted to welcome the CIfA, our chartered professional body, to our offices for an inspection earlier in the summer. It was a very positive day although we await the official committee report, so we’re keen not to jinx anything before then!
The summer holidays may be here, but we’re still happily busy making hay (or more accurately heritage statements) while the sun shines!
Its been way too long since our last blog, due in no small part to an exceptionally busy spell, which has seen Armour Heritage venturing out to sites across the southwest, southeast and middle of England.
Over the last few months we’ve had a marked rise in commissions for Heritage Statements, with a variety of proposals from new builds within Conservation Areas, conversions of redundant Listed Buildings and demolition of Locally Listed Buildings to provide more sustainable 21st century living and working spaces. Although no two projects are the same, the bespoke assessments we provide our valued clients for each project in line with local planning policy and professional standards, allows an independent, NPPF compliant assessment of the proposal to be made, which consider both the positive outcomes and potential harm of any given proposal.
Needless to say, it’s not just been the desk based work which has kept us busy, and despite some challenging weather conditions we have also maintained a steady succession of fieldwork projects over the autumn/winter stint. Watching briefs, large open area excavation and historic building recording have all been completed as conditions of planning consents, and we have also been working on some predetermination fieldwork too, with trial trenching and geophysical surveys being undertaken to inform on the archaeological potential of specific projects.
All in all its been a remarkably busy and very positive start to 2018, and as we embark on our 6th trading year, we’re not snowed under, or snowed in, but things are happily snowballing…
After the brief UK event billed comically as ‘summer’ it feels like autumn’s here – all too soon clearly. With the change in the weather from damp and warm to damp and a bit chillier, we have something of a change in circumstances at the AH Offices in Trudoxhill, outside Frome, Somerset.
After some time of being alone out here in the sticks, we’ve managed to let our downstairs offices/workshop area to a film and tv company from Glasgow who are around for the next couple of months filming a new series of daytime tv favourite ‘Money for Nothing’. The programme features the upcycling of what is basically junk into new saleable items, unlike our archaeology work which more often than not features the recycling of old(er) material into museum archive boxes, often never to be seen again!
On the work front business remains brisk with a good cross-section of archaeology and heritage work coming our way. Some of our more interesting projects have involved some test-pitting alongside an old sea defence on the south coast, the refurbishment of a probably medieval barn, work on a new energy project for Keele University and an upcoming public enquiry for a mid-range housing development. All good then!
Of course the problem with the onset of autumn/winter is the shorter days and longer nights, both in respect of on-site working hours and with the need to drive long distances in the dark for site visits or to appraise historic buildings etc. I for one detest driving in the dark so roll on next summer!
Watching briefs are one of the most common types of fieldwork we undertake at Armour Heritage, and we thought it was about time we provided a more comprehensive introduction to them! In our experience, the archaeological watching brief usually forms the final part of historic environment led work required on a site, often following on from a desk-based assessment, evaluation trenching or excavation, and is most commonly applied as a condition of planning consent. As a result, our clients range from those that have never dealt with archaeology before, to those who have probably dealt with it, in their opinion, far too much! Either way, at Armour Heritage our consultancy team and fieldwork services are designed to make the process a whole lot easier for all concerned.
The watching brief can often be the only form of fieldwork required by the local planning authority, used as a ‘catch all’ approach in areas where the archaeological potential is considered to be low, or the development small, although in some instances it can form part of a wider programme of archaeological mitigation on large scale development sites. Whatever the approach, one of our first roles at AH is usually to confirm the nature of the works required with the LPA, ensuring all archaeological work carried out is absolutely necessary and appropriate both in terms of the scope of works required and timing.
The majority of our watching briefs are on smaller developments, or on sites where access for other forms of fieldwork is hampered by existing site constraints – we have found that trees, buildings and pesky badgers have all trumped archaeology in recent months! In those cases, through our considered negotiations with local planning authorities, we have been able to defer the fieldwork (and the associated costs) to post-determination. On any given watching brief, we will usually deploy a single archaeologist to work closely with the groundworkers on site to monitor the initial stages of their excavations, be it foundation trenches, services, drainage or enabling works to record archaeological remains that may survive within the site. We oversee the archaeologist(s) to ensure the time spent on site is limited to that which is absolutely necessary to prevent uncontrolled drawn-out monitoring, and ensure archaeology does not impede the general progress of the construction works.
As part of our broader historic environment services at Armour Heritage, we will commission the archaeologist to complete the work through our network of trusted, usually locally-based contractors, to ensure our clients are provided with an experienced operative at a highly competitive rate. When the archaeological fieldwork is complete, the developer is free to complete their building programme whilst AH ensures the final stages of reporting are completed, enabling the archaeological condition(s) to be formally signed off. The processes we adopt at AH in terms of planning conditions are designed to allow our clients to move forward generally unhindered by any archaeological presence at their site, whilst at the same time retrieving and recording any archaeological component within the development – a win-win situation we feel for client and historic environment alike.
It’s the last week of June and we’ve made it to halfway through what is turning out to be a very turbulent year politically. I’m pleased to report a steadier ship at Armour Heritage where we have maintained a relatively unbroken flow of work during the first six months of 2017. Nevertheless, we have noticed a change in focus in the day to day workload, particularly regarding Heritage Statements and desk based work, which is more often now centred around a specific heritage issue requiring a bespoke response in terms of our advice and output. Matters concerning the setting of heritage assets has been, as it so often is, our main focus. Much of our office-based work is broadly related to Listed Buildings and the need to make them compatible with 21st century living and sustainability, new builds and extensions to existing Listed or undesignated properties in Conservation Areas, or the impact of proposed new builds on specific heritage assets.
In our day-to-day work AH produces a relatively large number of heritage statements, within the majority of which setting is an issue to a greater or lesser degree, and we are often surprised at the wide range of responses to the associated planning applications which will vary widely on a national, regional and local basis. We often find what we would regard as ‘non-issues’ blown out of all proportion and sites which we have advised as contentious sailing through planning with not so much as a comment, positive or negative, on our contribution.
It’s clear we’re not the only ones juggling with issues of setting, which is being widely debated in a number of heritage forums, due in part to the result of a landmark case in Derbyshire where a High Court judge recently overruled the planning inspector following a public enquiry which proposed up to 400 new homes close to a Grade I Listed Building, Derbyshire Hall.
Whilst the Derbyshire Hall case concluded the Inspector had failed to focus on the "historic, social and economic connections" between the hall and the development site, the case also highlights the need for greater guidance on setting which is increasingly becoming a grey area in terms of planning policy, and which would benefit from further robust, rational and realistic scrutiny.
It’s been a while since we’ve posted a blog, too long really but this reflects how busy the first three months of 2017 has been. At AH we’ve been juggling large and small fieldwork projects with an unusually high demand for heritage statements and desk based assessments so our team has been pretty much flat out since the start of the year – not complaining of course!
As ever, our workload has been a combination of new and returning clients, all whom have our undying gratitude for choosing AH to assist with their planning needs, be they planning conditions work that need discharging or advice and pre-planning documents relating to archaeology, designated sites and buildings or assessments of archaeological potential – everyone needs a heads-up when it comes to potential ‘buried’ costs!
Outside the sun is finally shining, the birds are singing (and visiting our office window feeder in droves) - even our office heating has at last been turned down!
There’s still a certain amount of uncertainty about what the future may hold, particularly with the final triggering of Article 50 but we remain positive – houses still need to be built, more so than ever if the media reports of a looming ‘housing crisis’ are to be believed and Listed Buildings and other properties in Conservation Areas still need to be assessed ahead of extension or refurbishment.
Speaking of Listed Buildings and Conservation Area issues, we were pleased to hear that the proposed total rebuild of the Grade II Listed Old Sardine Factory in East Looe, Cornwall (pictured), has finally accrued the funding necessary to complete the project. AH has been involved from the project’s inception and it has provided both interesting and challenging work, from initial assessment to the difficulties encountered when it became clear that the mid-19th century structure was irretrievably unstable, its foundations having been undermined by the tidal flow of the adjacent river. The building is now set for demolition and a Level 4 building survey will be completed prior to that, along with monitoring works and potentially an evaluation post-demolition. The building will unfortunately need to be de-Listed, a process not undertaken lightly by Historic England but this has proved to be the only safe and pragmatic course of action.
All in all a bright and varied first quarter to 2017 and we are looking forward to the next few months as large-scale excavation and evaluation work at our Littlehampton site resumes following a short hiatus. Ongoing work across a number of counties, including Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Devon, Bath & North East Somerset, Hampshire, Hertfordshire and the London Boroughs of Lewisham, Merton and the City of Westminster will keep us busy I’m sure.
2016 was AH’s fourth complete year of operations and represented our most successful both in terms of the number of projects completed and company turnover, for which we are very grateful to all our clients, both returning and new. Last year also saw AH accepted as a Registered Organisation with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, a significant step forward for us and a guarantee of our competence and our professional approach to a wide range of projects, from small alterations to Listed Buildings or undesignated buildings in Conservation Areas, to large scale excavations for housing and mixed-use developments. Geographically, as anyone who follows @Armourheritage on Twitter will know, we have completed projects from the far west of Cornwall to Kent and Sussex, and from Greater London to the Midlands and Yorkshire – if road miles translated to air miles we’d be due a free holiday in the sun!
Looking forward to 2017, although the immediate future is fuelled by a high level of uncertainty engendered by the referendum result, our clients remain very positive, and the beginning of the year is happily just as busy as the end of the last. Construction of new housing, development led work in schools, and energy projects across the south is resulting in a busy project worksheet, with a happy balance of desk based and fieldwork set to keep us busy at the start of the year!
Here’s wishing all our clients, sub-contractors and everyone else a happy and prosperous new year!
It’s exactly four years to the day that I took the fateful step to quit my employment and start AH, and four years on AH has become established in the heritage sector with a growing client base including both repeat clients and a steady stream of new ones, from individual householders to larger more well-known developers looking for a change in their heritage advisors.
In the early days our work focused, as it does today, on housing and mixed use development although a decent percentage involved renewable energy. Wind turbines gave us much of our earlier assessment work with solar adding significantly to the mix after a few months. This sustained us well for a couple of years until the removal of government support triggered the renewables sector to crash – causing us more than a little consternation at the time!
Since then, through a combination of advertising, contacts and word of mouth, our market share has grown significantly with year-on-year workloads and turnover continuing to rise.
This past year and a half has been our busiest yet. With the arrival of Sue Farr two years ago, we have been able to branch out, allowing more archaeological consultancy and fieldwork management of large-scale schemes to complement our ‘bread-and-butter’ heritage-led work.
Despite the economic uncertainty engendered by the referendum result, we remain cautiously optimistic for the future, and we hope to be repeating our now ‘traditional’ birthday blog for many years to come!
It’s almost the weekend, and this morning at Armour Heritage we’ve been cataloguing some of the digital images we’ve taken from recent sites, and getting nostalgic about the projects we’ve been involved in over the last 12 months.
Our whizzy new Lightbox software from Adobe allows us to map the areas we’ve worked in around the UK, through use of the photographs’ geo-tagging, and shows a concentration in Greater London and Cornwall, both areas where setting of historic assets, impacts of conversions or new build in Conservation Areas, and World Heritage Site issues are regularly contentious topics. Not surprisingly, the map also shows we’ve been busy closer to our main office in Somerset, and local areas of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Berkshire where we regularly complete watching briefs, evaluations and archaeological mitigation. It's worth noting that the numbers on the screen-dump refer to the numbers of photographs from the wider area rather than the number of projects undertaken. Penwith, for example, in West Cornwall, shows 101 photographs - these refer to around 15 recent sites.
Through the many projects we’ve been involved in, we’re in no doubt a bespoke, tailored heritage statement can help to identify and mitigate the impacts of any development proposal on heritage assets, thus providing a cost-effective approach to independently assessing the significance of assets in and around a site. Moreover, our desk based assessments can offer suggestions and solutions with regard to the potential affects the development may have on the historic environment, and ultimately may contribute toward that all-important resolution between the planners and our valued clients.
The Tour of Britain cycling event finishes in the World Heritage Site city of Bath later today, and as well as a guaranteed early finish for Team AH (big cycling fans that we are!), we’re also reminded of our own excursions around the UK over the last few months.
Although we’ve not made it into Scotland just yet, work continues apace across the much of the rest of the UK. Regionally, Greater London and Cornwall seem to top the bill although we still can’t put our finger on why, when you get one project in a certain area, another seems to quickly follow. Chaos theory perhaps…
One thing we find continually is the learning curve working nationally engenders. Our recent work in Greater London for example has been across a number of the suburbs – Greenwich, Charlton, Lewisham, Catford and Brockley, as well as more centrally with a site in historic Southwark. Each site came with its own specific set of challenges, due in part to their varied locations and in part to the variety of works proposed, which offered Conservation Area & Listed Building issues as well as some insights into some exceptional archaeological potential – particularly true in Southwark with our site adjacent to the former major Roman road of Watling Street. We’d recommend an excellent monograph produced by the Museum of London Archaeology Service (now MOLA) which reports on excavations on Great Dover Street, very close to our site, available here http://www.mola.org.uk/publications/romano-british-cemetery-watling-street-excavations-165-great-dover-street-southwark.
Amongst the subject matter we’ve been sifting through, the exponential expansion of the London Suburbs in the later 19th century has become clear, reflecting the desire of the wealthier to move away from the centre of the city and out into the leafier areas of Lewisham and other parts of what was then still Kent. Of interest also has been the changing face of the streetscape, both in the centre of the city with some iconic buildings being constructed in recent years (the Gherkin, the Shard etc), and the changes in the Georgian and Victorian terraces of the suburbs, often the result of bomb damage during the Blitz – Bombsight.org offers a good insight into this, particularly in conjunction with comparisons between pre-War and 1950s OS maps.
From the very beginnings of each new project at AH, and the journey it takes us on, we increasingly recognise the wealth of knowledge out there and the importance of maintaining all of our heritage resources, and good easy access to them. They, like the whole of the heritage industry, rely on the support of both professionals and the public at large.
Plenty has happened since our last blog back in June – seems hard to believe it was really only just over a month ago?
England’s footballers, true to form, failed miserably at Euro 2016, falling to a team of mighty part-timers managed by a dentist, and supported clearly and unfairly by Thor. On the positive side, the weather seems to have taken a turn to the good recently – you could almost mistake it for summer - which has made our site visits of late rather pleasant, in particular those down to the Cornish coast! Thanks go to a number of our clients for their impeccable timing!
But I suppose of most significance to small businesses like Armour Heritage, Britain has, for good or ill, voted to leave the EU at some as yet unspecified time in the future. It’s far too soon to say how, or indeed if, this will impact on the heritage sector. The message we’re getting thus far is ‘business as usual’, which is encouraging in the short term at least. In a similar vein we also wait and wonder what impact, if any, a new Prime Minister and Cabinet will have on the UK’s heritage sector.
This in mind, we can report a positive past few weeks work-wise, including the aforementioned new projects in North, South and West Cornwall, London, Warwickshire and Wiltshire alongside the securing of a substantial fieldwork project in Sussex. All of this will help to augment our ongoing heritage and archaeology work across the country, so things at AH remain busy and we, the Directors, remain happy!
As we rapidly approach the halfway point of another year, we thought this would be a good time to reflect on the past 6 months – please excuse the football related title, but it’s the Euros so we had no choice!
The start of the year saw Armour Heritage become a Registered Organisation with the CIfA, which was an excellent outcome following a considerable amount of form-filling and a very helpful meeting with the CIfA’s representatives just before Christmas. The feedback from our clients has been positive too, and has confirmed that our continued commitment to delivering independent, professional, and pragmatic advice on all heritage related projects is good for client and heritage alike.
Since receiving the CIfA kitemark, it’s proven to be a very busy time, with multiple projects across the UK, ranging geographically from the western tip of Cornwall to Rainham in Essex in the south, and occasional trips ‘up country’ to the East Midlands and beyond for fieldwork and desk-based heritage projects. The end of May also saw the winding-up of our extensive excavations at Winnersh in Berkshire – see the galleries section for a bit more on this. The dig was AH’s biggest project to date, and provided a number of logistical challenges, interesting archaeology and welcome outreach opportunities, including a well-attended open day.
Of course, every half-year has its hitches and we, like the rest of our profession, remain concerned over the contents of the Queen’s Speech, in particular elements of the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill, which in its current form, jeopardises over 25 years of improved heritage protection within the planning system, putting future construction projects at greater financial risk, and our valued clients with the threat of potential lengthy delays on site. AH has joined in our industry’s robust opposition to aspects of the proposed changes in their current form, and we await the outcome of consultations triggered by the well-supported online petition in this regard.
It’s less than a couple of weeks until the in/out EU vote, another cause of concern here and elsewhere across the profession. Although we can’t be clear on how the outcome will affect our profession and the wider economy in the longer term, we are under no illusion that much of our heritage and environmental protection stems from European policy – though not all strictly EU based - and continued membership of the EU would support these conventions in a positive manner.
All-in-all a positive first half to the year, may the second half bring continued success!
The open day at Hatch Farm attracted over 260 visitors on what turned out to be a bright though very chilly Sunday afternoon. Visitors were taken on site tours and had the opportunity to see the ongoing excavation of features, chat to the teams from AH and TVAS, and to view and handle some of the many finds excavated over the past few weeks.
A gallery showcasing elements of the event is available here.
For some months now Armour Heritage, in association with Thames Valley Archaeological Services, has been involved in large scale excavations at Hatch Farm, Winnersh, prior to its development for housing. The excavations, joint funded by Bovis Homes and Persimmon Homes Thames Valley, have been undertaken over a number of areas identified during two phases of archaeological trial trench evaluation. The majority of the remains uncovered relate to a small rural farmstead, occupied during the later Iron Age and the earliest phases of the Roman occupation. Remains dating to earlier and later periods have also been identified at Hatch Farm and you are invited to come and see for yourself! The site is open to the public on Sunday the 24th April from 10am until 3pm, see fliers below for details - we hope to see you there!
After some considerable form filling and a morning entertaining CIfA folk at our Trudoxhill offices, Armour Heritage is very pleased to announce that we are now an approved Registered Organisation.
With the recent exponential growth of the company’s workload and turnover, both in Heritage Consultancy and archaeological fieldwork management, this for us is an important and very welcome addition to our CV.
We applied for the RO scheme at the back end of last autumn, although our work commitments then meant that the initial application forms were filled out in rather piecemeal fashion. However, the important thing for us is that we got there…and not just for us. The RO membership represents a ‘kite mark’ through which our valued clients, existing and future, can feel assured that AH will continue to offer them an excellent professional service, undertaken to the highest standard and in line with the CIfA’s guidance.
As AH continues to advance as a heritage practice, we welcome the support of the CIfA - not just for us, and our clients, but for the profession as a whole.
The publication of PPG16 (Planning Policy Guidance Note 16, on 'Archaeology and Planning') in November 1990 allowed, for the first time, the integration of archaeology into the planning process, with the responsibility for the funding of any archaeological works falling to the developer.
This represented a sea-change in the approach to archaeology and planning. Whilst previously the discovery of archaeological remains was generally dealt with through a process of ‘rescue’ digs, reliant on central and local government funding, now the archaeological potential of a proposed development site could be assessed in advance. This allowed appropriate mitigation to be set out as a condition or conditions attached to planning consent.
Since the issue of PPG16, and its counterpart PPG15 (Planning and the Historic Environment), which was concerned with built heritage, Conservation Areas and the historic environment, attitudes toward archaeology and heritage in the planning system have fundamentally changed. True enough, we still occasionally hear “…so what happens if you find something, do you bring in students to dig it up…”, from the viewpoint of the developer, dealing with archaeology and heritage matters is now an accepted part of the planning process.
Whilst the tenets set out in the PPGs have been adapted through changes in national planning policy, through PPS5 to the current NPPF, the principles remain, probably stronger now than ever, with the support of a number of guidance documents released by both central government and Historic England.
As heritage professionals, the continued support for heritage through the planning system is of course fundamental to our heritage consultancy's continuing existence, however, stepping away from thoughts of commercial viability, this support needs to remain in place to ensure our heritage is appropriately maintained, recorded and protected.
Despite our earnest predictions that January would be a relatively quiet start to 2016, something along the lines of… “time to get over Christmas and ease back into work gently”… or words to that effect, January has proved to be our busiest and most successful month in the three-and-a-bit years since AH was set up. Rather than the “gentle start” we predicted, we've found ourselves to be very busy indeed, working the occasional weekend on a range of projects across England, stretching from West Cornwall to Norfolk and Suffolk , along with several developments closer to home in Somerset and Wiltshire too.
Things have been busy on both AH’s main ‘fronts’ – heritage assessment work and archaeological fieldwork management – with a number of new clients coming on board over the past few weeks with new housing schemes and work assessing Listed Buildings ahead of their conversion/re-use, alongside the re-emergence of projects put on the back burner, which we had considered may not be happening at all.
All in all it’s been a bright start to the new year then, with current projects extending, in some cases, through to the summer and beyond. We look forward to more of the same as the year progresses!
So, a new year with new challenges. At AH the year has started brightly with some interesting new projects on our books already, including heritage work in Bridgwater, Swindon and the Liskeard area of Cornwall. Further management of large scale archaeological excavations in Berkshire looks likely, alongside a number of continuing projects across the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Worcestershire and Devon. Still awaiting our ‘Must Farm buried Bronze Age houses’ moment, but we live in hope!
Hits on the web site have increased exponentially over the past few months, and we’re adding new sections all the time so please keep checking it out when you’ve a spare moment.
Domestically we’re still mulling over the financial benefits (or otherwise) of having new offices built from scratch, although looking out of our Foghamshire Lane office window at the frost covered fields, I think we may just prefer to stay where we are. It is a truly stunning morning in Somerset.