Generic brief for an historic environment assessment and walk over survey

1/1/0001 12:00:00 AM
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Last updated: 18 August 2021

1. Summary

This is a generic brief for use in relation to desk-based assessments and walk-over surveys of heritage assets required prior to the determination of a planning application. Assessments are required where a development is likely to affect the significance of a known heritage asset of archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic interest, or has the potential to affect as yet undiscovered assets of archaeological interest, and information held on the Buckinghamshire Historic Environment Record is not sufficient to fully understand the heritage interest or the impact of the proposed development upon it.

This brief sets out the standard requirements for the heritage consultant who will undertake this work. It can be used to obtain quotes from appropriately qualified consultants (they will also need details of the development) and will inform the preparation of a project design, which should be agreed by the Council Archaeology Service before commencing work.

A Historic Environment Assessment will normally include: 1) The production of the Project Design outlining the key issues to be addressed, the sources and methodology to be used and the expertise available; 2) Research from a range of publicly available sources and information held by the applicant; 3) A site visit with appropriate written/photographic record; 4) The production of a final report including assessments of heritage significance and development impact and appropriate specialist input..

For advice on commissioning archaeological work please see 'Advice on commissioning archaeological work in Buckinghamshire' Expertise on historic buildings can also be sourced through the Institute for Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and Historic England.


2. Scope of this brief

a. This brief will be appropriate for developments with multiple effects on heritage assets, for example listed buildings, conservation areas and archaeological remains and their settings. A key issue at the outset will be to identify the nature of the heritage assets and interests affected and to ensure the study focuses on matters relevant to the impact of the development on those assets.

b. It would not normally be appropriate to use this brief if:

  • an assessment is unlikely to add significantly to existing knowledge
  • the matters requiring consideration are relatively minor or straightforward and the relevant heritage case officer agrees that a full assessment is unnecessary
  • the site’s archaeological interest is better suited to moving directly to archaeological evaluation (e.g. geophysical survey and/or trial trenching), in which case a ‘cut down’ archaeological assessment should form part of the evaluation report

In such instances please contact the Council Archaeology Service for further advice.


3. Purpose 

The historic environment assessment will be a holistic study combining archaeological desk-based assessment (CIfA, 2017) with historic building (Historic England, 2016) and landscape assessment where appropriate. It will consider the likely effects of development on extant heritage assets within and adjacent to the site, options for mitigating any negative impacts and also the potential of an historical understanding of the site to inform the layout and design of new development.


4. Requirement for an assessment

Paragraph 194 of the National Planning Policy Framework (2021) states that where a development may affect heritage assets, or has potential to include heritage assets with archaeological interest, the developer should provide an assessment of their significance, including any contribution made by their setting. The level of detail should be proportionate to the assets’ importance and sufficient to understand the potential impact of the development proposal on their significance. For sites of potential archaeological interest, a field evaluation may also be necessary involving a wide range of survey and investigative techniques, including fieldwalking, geophysical survey and trial trenching.

Advice should be sought from the Council Archaeology Service and relevant Council Conservation Officers historic environment assessment on the key issues to be addressed in the study; although such advice should not be taken as exhaustive as the study itself may identify additional issues to be considered.


5. Procedure and professional standards

The assessment should be undertaken in accordance with the "Standard and Guidance for Archaeological Desk-based Assessments" published by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA, 2017) and Historic England's published guidance on assessing and recording historic buildings (2016). The project should be governed by a project design which has been agreed in writing by the Council Archaeology Service. The project design should conform to section 3.3 of the CIfA guidelines and cover the following points:

  • the project manager should be a named Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIfA).
  • specialists should be identified where required (e.g. for historic building and landscape assessment, historic documentary study etc.). Note: Specialists should be able to demonstrate a relevant qualification and track record of at least 3 years continuous relevant work (or equivalent) and appropriate publication. In appropriate circumstances, less experienced staff may conduct work under the supervision of well established and widely recognised specialists.
  • sources of information to be used (see below).
  • the extent of the study area - this should be carefully justified and sufficient to enable the site to be understood within its wider historic landscape/settlement context.
  • reporting format


6. Objectives

a. Procedure

The assessment should:

  • identify relevant designated and undesignated heritage assets and potential setting issues, including; scheduled monuments, listed buildings, registered historic parks, conservation areas, historically "important" hedgerows and sites recorded on the Historic Environment Record
  • summarise the topography, geology and current/last land use of the study area
  • identify and describe any standing buildings/structures of potential interest together with an assessment of the potential value of more detailed investigation/recording. Features of architectural or artistic interest should be noted
  • analyse the landscape history of the study area to identify the character of past land use and the survival of significant features, such as routeways, boundary features, deliberately planted vegetation etc. This should include consideration of the Historic Landscape or Urban Characterisation data held by the Council Archaeology Service, Conservation Area Appraisals and the Conservation Management Plans prepared for some extensive heritage assets (e.g. parks and gardens). It should also include consideration of the historic setting and context of significant heritage assets
  • summarise the documented archaeology of the study area, including the history of previous archaeological research in the area. Identify areas of recent ground disturbance (including raising of ground levels) within the site. Services and other potential constraints on field evaluation should also be noted. Assess the likely state of preservation and depth of burial of archaeological remains across the site
  • make an initial assessment of the relevant historical documentation which may be available for the site (e.g. by consideration of the periods represented, the documented history of the landholding, county and local histories, listings of documents in publications and archive indexes etc.). This is particularly relevant to consideration of historical interest
  • assess the reliability of the currently available information and any identify uncertainties
  • identify the heritage assets potentially affected by development and assess their archaeological, architectural, artistic and historic interest and significance
  • assess the likely impact of the development on significant heritage assets. Suggest potential means to minimise or mitigate negative impacts and reflect the area’s historic character in new design.

NB: Assessments of heritage interest/significance and recommendations will not be binding on the local authority or its advisers.


7. Information sources

Consideration should be given to searching the following sources of information. There should be a presumption that all potentially relevant information sources will be searched. The project design should specify any proposed variations from this list and supply appropriate justifications for such variations.

  • Buckinghamshire Historic Environment Record
  • Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies: Historic maps (both county and local), antiquarian sources and documentary records (including indexes to some collections held elsewhere), local history reference library
  • National Monuments Record: Archaeological records
  • National Library of Aerial Photographs
  • Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs
  • Environment Agency LiDAR datasets, available online
  • Landowners/Developers: e.g. for geotechnical data or information on recent land use/cellars etc
  • Historic England: List of Scheduled Monuments, Register of Historic Parks and Gardens; Lists of Historic Buildings
  • local archaeologists/historians and other archaeological organisations: unpublished information and/or specialist local knowledge
  • site inspection/walkover survey: to identify and record historic buildings and landscape features, current land use, areas of disturbance, areas of potential colluvial or alluvial deposits etc
  • any other relevant sources identified in consultation with the Council Archaeology Service or in the process of researching the assessment (e.g. Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society Library, Buckinghamshire County Museum, Public Record Office, HERs held by neighbouring authorities, documentary archives in private or other hands)


8. Report standards

8.1. As a minimum standard reports should conform to the guidelines set out in section 3.5 by the CIfA (CIfA, 2017).

8.2. Specific report requirements in Buckinghamshire are as follows:

  • historic map transcriptions should be made via appropriate intermediary maps normally on to the earliest readily available 1:2500 Ordnance Survey base
  • aerial photographic and LiDAR plotting should be by computer rectification at 1:2500 for individual sites and 1:10000 for landscapes. Mapping standards and conventions should take account of published national guidance notes. Ridge and furrow may be sketch plotted
  • earthworks should be sketch-plotted at not less than 1:2500 as part of the site inspection if a measured survey is not available
  • building records to comply with Historic England guidance (HE, 2016)
  • surviving historic garden features and planting to be identified on a plan at a suitable scale with a brief written description and photographic record
  • areas of recent ground disturbance should be mapped
  • if data is available, a indicative section of the depths of on site deposits should be included
  • maps and plans (other than reproductions of historic maps) should utilise an Ordnance Survey base at an appropriate scale


9. Submission of reports and archiving

9.1. One paper copy of the final report should be supplied to the Buckinghamshire Council Archaeology Service. A digital copy should also be supplied in PDF format.

9.2. One copy of the report should also be supplied to the local planning authority, if appropriate.

9.3. Reports submitted in support of planning applications are automatically considered to be public documents and will be made available for public consultation through the Historic Environment Record. Other reports will also be treated as a public document unless specifically identified as being confidential. Where a report is so identified then confidentiality should apply for an agreed period not normally exceeding 12 months from its submission to the HER.

9.4. The paper archive generated by the assessment should be integrated with the archive of any subsequent archaeological fieldwork. 


10. Bibliography

CIfA, 2017. Standard and Guidance for historic environment desk-based assessment.

Historic England, 2015. Good Practice Advice in Planning Note 1: The Historic Environment in Local Plans

Historic England, 2015. Good Practice Advice in Planning Note 2: Managing Significance in Decision-Taking in the Historic Environment

Historic England, 2016 Understanding Historic Buildings: A Guide to Good Recording Practice

Historic England 2017. Historic Environment Good Practice Advice in Planning Note 3: The Setting of Heritage Assets (2nd Edition)

MHC&LG, 2019. National Planning Policy Framework.


14. Contacts

Buckinghamshire Council Archaeology Service
Planning and Environment
Walton Street Offices 
HP20 1UA

Phil Markham BA MA MCIfA, Senior Archaeological Officer
Telephone: 01296 382 705

Lucy Lawrence BA ACIfA, Archaeological Officer
Telephone: 01296 674 592

Julia Wise BA MCIfA, HER Officer
Telephone: 01296 382 072

Paul Clements BA HER Assistant
Telephone: 01296 382 624

Please note that the HER operates an appointment system and there is a charge for commercial enquiries.

Buckinghamshire Archives
County Hall
Walton Street
HP20 1UU

Telephone: 01296 382 587 
Fax: 01296 382 274


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