You don’t need a licence to use a metal detector in the UK, but there are laws about their use.
Using a metal detector is illegal on:
- private land, without permission from the owner
- a Scheduled Monument
- an Area of Archaeological Importance (AAI)
- a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
York's Historic Environment Record shows Scheduled Monuments and Areas of Archaeological Importance.
Land identified as a site of importance for nature conservation (SINC) should be discussed with the relevant local authority as permission may need to be sought from Natural England.
Once you have identified an area that does not fall into one of the above categories you must obtain permission from the landowner.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) code of practice should be followed; their website contains many other useful links.
Metal detectors and rivers
It is illegal to use a metal detector or 'magnet fish' in the water courses within an Area of Archaeological Importance.
Metal detector finds and treasure
All finds should be reported to your local Finds Liaison Officer who will also help you identify finds and give advice on conservation.
Certain types of find must be reported to the Coroner's Office within 14 days. Finds declared as ‘treasure’ by the Coroner become the property of the British Museum and you will be paid a percentage of their value.
Any gold or silver objects, or groups of coins over 300 years old are classed as ‘treasure’ and must be reported under the Treasure Act 1996.
Read about the protocol and legislation for excavation of treasure, finding human remains and who to contact, produced by the PAS for North and East Yorkshire.