Recognised for a comprehensive history of sheep farming, Berkshire is known for its expansive rural areas. It is also home to towns and cities such as Bracknell, Maidenhead, Newbury, Reading, Slough and Wokingham. Considering the seemingly endless number of greenfield sites, the local council show a relaxed approach to allowing developers to stage planning projects on untouched pieces of land.
For example, Berkshire County Council recently allowed for an allocated greenfield site to be disregarded in favour of the development of 1,600 new homes and another greenfield site was replaced by 45 new homes. Part of the reason for the local council’s acceptance of the loss of undeveloped land is that they ensure it only happens if there is clear consideration of environmentally friendly policies, such as biodiversity net gain.
As well as greenfield land, the local authorities are also willing to part with green belt land. In fact, over the last four years, a third of the local green belt has been built. Although developers may be drawn to Berkshire in order to utilise the available greenfield land, it’s not to say that undeveloped patches of land are without any issues at all, particularly in the case of potential archaeological remains hidden beneath the surface.
Policies that Connect Archaeology to Planning
All over the country, local authorities refer to licensed archaeologists in conjunction with planning. With the expertise and insights of professional archaeologists, planning applications involving undeveloped land or listed historic sites can be sufficiently processed without missing out on any details that would otherwise cause harm to potentially valuable archaeological features.
Archaeologists working with the local council will assist with planning policies that relate to historic remains and set the criteria that will see the local planning authority grant or deny applications for planning permission on the site. A benefit to the planning officer, but from the perspective of the developer, an archaeology survey would be needed to ensure that the relevant requirements have been met.
Surveys Over Archaeological Remains
Split between a prior research study into the site and a physical inspection, an archaeology survey will examine existing information and present archaeological features. Prior to attending the development site, the archaeological consultant will conduct desk-based assessments to retrieve information about the site’s historic value and known historic features. Upon completion, it will be time to move on to the inspection of the site, using two forms of survey to identify all archaeological remains.
The two methods for assessing a site for historic features include a surface survey for above-ground features and a geophysical survey for below-ground features. Once the site has been analysed, highly specialised equipment such as a ground penetrating radar (GPR) device will be used to determine potential features underground. A GPR will be run over all areas to send radio waves into the ground, and distances between the radio waves leaving the device, bouncing off surfaces and objects, and returning to the device will be a likely indication of historic remains beneath the surface of the ground.
It may be necessary to excavate the site if identified archaeological remains haven’t already been dismissed during the preliminary desk-based assessment. Additionally, the archaeological surveyor may decide to integrate other techniques such as walkovers, site discovery, watching briefs and aerial photography, or show consideration to contours, earthworks, the National Grid and existing building surveys. Evidence from the survey and the archaeologist’s suggested next steps will be available in the form of an archaeology report. After the assessment, the archaeology survey report will be given to the local planning authority to enhance the application for a planning condition.
Refer to an Archaeology Expert
Whether you are aware that you need an archaeology survey as you are staging a development on a historic site or an undeveloped patch of land, or if you need help with working out the most suitable type of assessment for your project, speak to Arbtech and our helpful team can gauge the best course of action and point you in the right direction.
Spanning across the UK, our archaeological surveyors are situated in all areas – including Berkshire – meaning we can provide our services to any private or professional client that contacts us. You can do the same by calling us directly or filling out an online quote form and passing across details about your site and project. From there, we can give you a free quote, arrange a date for an archaeology survey, and help you get through the planning stage.