Planning and building

Guidance for archaeological work

Archaeological evaluation

An archaeologist may evaluate a site specified by the City Archaeologist in order to characterise any archaeological deposits which may survive there. The information provided will allow a reasoned decision to be made on the impact of any proposed scheme on the significance of these assets.

The results of this archaeological evaluation will be used to determine the nature of any mitigation measures that might be necessary and the scale of archaeological work that it might include.

Relevant previous archaeological fieldwork and any accessible borehole information needs to be obtained and referenced during the evaluation work.

Where planning, listed building or scheduled monument consent is required for development, a final report on the results of this evaluation will be required as part of the information submitted to validate an application. No application will be determined until this information has been provided and mitigation measures agreed. This follows the archaeology policy adopted by us and that contained in National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The following details need to be established through the evaluation:

  • whether anoxically preserved deposits, wet deposits, and dry deposits are preserved across the site within the area proposed for level reduction
  • whether a deposit prediction for the site as a whole, indicating the nature and preservation of prehistoric, Roman, Anglian, Anglo-Scandinavian, medieval and post-medieval strata can be made

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City centre

The contractor needs to have relevant experience of working on complex urban sites and the complex archives which they produce.

The archaeological policy of the planning authority is to seek to preserve at least 95% of archaeological deposits underneath a new development within the city centre area. We will advise an applicant on how this preservation target can be achieved.

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During the evaluation the following methodologies must be followed:

  • if trenching, all overburden will be removed by mechanical excavator under archaeological supervision, down to either the top of undisturbed natural sub-soil or the top of archaeological deposits whichever is the higher - areas of intensive modern disturbance will be given a low priority in excavation; where practicable, the fills of these features will be removed by mechanical excavator
  • trenches must be shored or stepped if deeper than 1.2 meters
  • if a borehole evaluation is to take place window sample boreholes are to be used
  • boreholes should be located using GPS survey equipment accurate to +/-25mm, if this is not possible trench locations will be plotted using an EDM Total station, by measurement to local permanent features shown on published Ordnance Survey maps. All measurements will be accurate to +/-10cm, and locatable on a 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map
  • the sampling strategy will be agreed between the contractor and the City Archaeologist, and, where necessary, the Historic England Regional Science Advisor
  • all appropriate records must be made and kept
  • all archaeological contexts must be sampled in accordance with a sampling strategy which must be agreed in advance with the Science Advisor, Historic England (York Office) and approved in writing by us
  • all sampling must be in accordance with the recommendations contained in Historic England guidance; in addition, the advice of the Regional Science Advisor must be sought with regard to all other aspects of archaeological science, including dating, that might arise on this site - their recommendations must be followed and confirmation of the adoption of their recommendations supplied in writing to Assistant Director (City Development and Sustainability)
  • all records must be indexed, ordered, quantified, and checked for consistency
  • all artefacts and ecofacts recovered and retained from the evaluation must be packed and stored in the appropriate materials and conditions to ensure that minimal deterioration takes place and that all their associated records are complete
  • all artefacts and ecofacts recovered from the evaluation must be assessed, and where appropriate processed analysed drawn and published, by a person or organisation with skills and expertise relating to the artefacts and ecofacts
  • environmental samples must be processed and assessed
  • the rest of the material archive must be assessed for its potential to contribute to artefactual research; and the stratigraphic sequence assessed
  • all finders of gold and silver objects, and groups of coins from the same finds, over 300 years old, have a legal obligation to report such items under the Treasure Act 1996 - prehistoric base-metal assemblages found after 1 January 2003 also qualify as Treasure
  • if anything is found which could be Treasure, under the Treasure Act 1996, it is a legal requirement to report it to the local coroner within 14 days of discovery - the archaeological contractor must comply with the procedures set out in The Treasure Act 1996. Any treasure must be reported to the coroner and to The Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer, who can provide guidance on the Treasure Act procedures
  • human remains must be treated with care, dignity and respect - discussions will be held between the client, contractor and City Archaeologist as to the next steps if unexpected human remains are found; if it's agreed that removal of the remains is essential, the archaeological contractor will apply for a licence from the Home Office and their regulations must be complied with - an osteoarchaeologist should be employed for any burial excavation from the start of the project. Human remains must be shielded from public view
  • trenches must stay a safe distance away from pylons, overhead power lines and must avoid known services
  • the commissioning client will advise of any ecological or biodiversity issues which need to be taken into consideration
  • the commissioning client will advise of any protected trees which must be avoided by the evaluation. Damage to trees covered by a Tree Protection Order carries a substantial fine
  • trenches must avoid any Japanese Knotweed (it is the commissioning client’s responsibility to advise their archaeologist if Japanese Knotweed is present on the site)

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The evaluation report should include:

  • a plan of site with scale showing position of trenches, site levels (AOD) and 8 figure National Grid Reference
  • portfolio of drawn sections, trench plans, and, where appropriate, drawings of artefacts, a matrix of contexts
  • a full description of and an interpretation of the archaeological sequence, setting the site into the context of the known archaeology of the area
  • an interpretation of the archaeological and research potential of the remainder of the site
  • an assessment of the artefacts and ecofacts and where produced reports on any further analyses
  • list of sources consulted
  • recommendations for further work
  • an index to and details of the location of the physical and digital archive

The long term care of the evaluation archive must be provided for. All the original material and paper archive must be prepared for deposition with an approved archaeological depository such as the Yorkshire Museum. These Institutions will charge to cover the long-term curation of the archaeological archive. The requirements of the receiving Institution must be identified at the time of producing an estimate for the scheme of investigation. The digital archive must be deposited with the ADS and costed at the outset

Our Historic Environment Record (HER) supports the 'Online Access to Index of Archaeological Investigations' (OASIS) project; the archaeological contractormust complete the online OASIS form. We will only accept reports as digital files. The report must be submitted as a Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

Once a report has become a public document by forming part of a planning application, we will place the information on our website.

  • The contractor must give at least 7 days notice in writing of the start of works on site to City Archaeologist
  • The contractor must produce a written synopsis of the results of the evaluation and submit this to us no later than 2 months after the completion of work on site
  • The contractor may be subject to regular monitoring visits by us
  • Reasonable access to the site must be given at all times to the City Archaeologist
  • Reasonable access must also be given to the Historic England Regional Science Advisor to the site and to post-excavation work
  • All work must be undertaken in a professional manner in line with CIFA Standards and Guidance for an archaeological evaluation

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Contractors must ensure that the question of backfilling and surface re-instatement is discussed with the client/landowner prior to any works commencing on-site.

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Public engagement

The general public has a strong interest in archaeological issues. Excavations, both large and small, often attract a great deal of public interest. They also represent an opportunity for people to experience at first hand the excitement of archaeological work. This is recognised in the National Planning Policy Framework and in our emerging policy framework.

The archaeological contractor should, discuss with the client the level and range of approaches which can be used to present archaeology to the general public. An appropriate level of public engagement should be defined and a sum of money set aside to pay for this element of the project.

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Also see


City of York Council, West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA