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.