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What is development led archaeology?

Investigating and recording archaeology in advance of its destruction by planned development is called development-led archaeology or developer-funded archaeology.

The majority of archaeological fieldwork in Scotland takes place in advance of planned developments large and small – road building, new housing, regeneration of run-down areas, for example.

This work is undertaken by commercial archaeological “units” – often companies or trusts – and paid for by developers.

Development-led archaeology and planning

Development-led archaeology operates under the Planning system, and the nature of the investigations to be undertaken is agreed during the planning process, with project designs prepared by archaeologists working for the developer and agreed by the planning authority on the advice of their own archaeological advisers

All developers are required to consider and take account of the impacts of their proposals on significant features of the historic environment.

Historic Scotland's role

In the area of development-led archaeology, there are 3 special areas we are closely involved in:

Scheduled monuments

Where scheduled monuments are affected, we deal with necessary consents and set archaeological conditions. Archaeological fieldwork will usually be done at the same time as any wider programme of investigations agreed or required by the planning authority.

When central government is the developer

In these cases we can help other departments in a range of ways from assisting them in acquiring quality advice through to actually managing projects.

At present, our main commitment in this area is in helping Transport Scotland run all the archaeology required in advance of trunk roads improvements – projects such as the M74 and M80 motorway completions or the A68 Dalkeith Northern Bypass are current examples. Further information on trunk road archaeology can be found here.

When Historic Scotland is the developer

The same rules apply on our own estate of over 300 properties which we open to the public. If archaeological work is needed, for example to investigate the ground because of structural problems, or to develop improved visitor facilities, this is arranged and paid for just like that required by any other developer.

Our Commercial and Tourism directorate employs archaeologists who design and supervise archaeological work, and all proposals for work to scheduled sites are independently assessed by our Scheduling Team within Heritage Management, to exactly the same standard as proposals from outside bodies.

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