Planning and building

Archaeological investigation

If your planning application is considered to lie within an area of archaeological interest or area of archaeological importance, you may need to undertake an archaeological investigation ahead of or during the works you are proposing.

You'll need to complete an Operations Notice form if you're carrying out any ground disturbing work within the 'area of archaeological importance' if not covered through a planning application.

See our guidance document for utility companies and developers regarding archaeology and working in York.

All archaeological work must meet the standards set by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIFA). We also endorse the Regional Statement of Good Practice for Archaeology in the development process and expect these standards to be adhered to when conducting archaeological fieldwork.

Archaeological investigation requirements

We publish a list of archaeological contractors we recommend that you call around for different quotes for your works.

The organisations and individuals included have either worked in or expressed an interest in working in York, however, it is not a list of approved contractors.

You will need to appoint an archaeological contractor to carry out any of the following:

Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI)

This is essentially a methodology of how and why the required archaeological work will take place.

It should include information such as:

  • how the work will be undertaken
  • what questions it will attempt to answer
  • how the work will be recorded
  • how the work will be reported upon

The CIFA guidelines on Project Design should be followed. Depending on the nature of the work, the levels of specific information required will vary.

The City Archaeologist needs to approve the WSI prior to the archaeological investigation being carried out.

Investigation Type

See below a brief explanation of the most common types of archaeological works. A suite of documents are available to download setting out in more detail the level/quality of work we expect to be undertaken.

Desk based assessment

A desk-based assessment is a study of the proposed development area which:

  • draws together information to describe and assess the historical and archaeological evidence of a site
  • assesses the potential impact of development
  • informs whether any further archaeological investigation is necessary and in what form

Watching brief

A watching brief is an archaeological observation of groundworks across the site; it:

  • is specified by the City Archaeologist
  • determines and records the nature of any archaeological deposits disturbed by the development

Archaeological evaluation

An archaeological evaluation (usually by trial trenching) varies between applications, it:

  • investigates the age, nature and survival of any archaeological deposits on site
  • formulates a 'mitigation strategy' to record, preserve or manage the resource
  • occurs before the proposed developments on site
  • can be requested as part of a building and planning pre-application (or post-determination condition)

Further investigation may be required, such as full archaeological excavation or a strip, map and record.

Borehole evaluation and water monitoring across the development site may be required when working in areas which contain or are suspected to contain significant waterlogged archaeological deposits. This should be discussed with the City Archaeologist very early in the pre-application stage.

Geophysical survey

A geophysical survey may be requested:

  • particularly relating to 'new build' on greenfield sites
  • to inform intrusive archaeological investigation through trenching

Anomalies shown on the survey are usually targeted during trenching.

Archaeological building recording

Archaeological building recording may be requested if development proposals could have a significant impact on a heritage asset.

There are several levels of recording, each with different amounts of detail; you'll be advised which level is required by the Archaeology Team.

The final report on such investigations are eventually deposited in the Historic Environment Record (HER) where they help to inform others on future applications and are used for research purposes.

Reports and archives should also be deposited with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS).

Also see


City Archaeologist, West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA