The role of archaeology in construction: new guidance issued

The existing UK Government guidance on managing historic landscape and archaeology during the planning and implementing of flood risk management construction projects has been updated, with a series of cases studies published by CIRIA (Feb 2021). CIRIA is the Construction Industry Research and Information Association, a neutral, independent and not-for-profit body.  The guidance is supported by the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, and the Welsh Government.

Archaeology is a major factor in construction and development and archaeological remains are treated as a material consideration in the planning process. Archaeological finds on a construction site – whether expected or unexpected – can lead to delays to capital or maintenance projects. However, when managed effectively, examples of the historic environment can present opportunities to add value to development projects. Historical and cultural artefacts are a part of heritage, and have an inherent value for education, research, leisure, tourism and the economy.

Flood and Coastal Risk Management schemes are conducted in river corridors, and estuarine and coastal environments which have a tendency to be rich in archaeological remains. Understanding how to anticipate and deal with archaeology means the risk of delays can be minimised, and archaeological remains of all periods, including industrial sites, can present opportunities to add value to development projects.

This project is the first of a two-phase initiative to update existing construction industry guidance on managing built heritage, the historic landscape, and archaeology when planning and implementing construction projects. These updates will bring the guidance in line with recent policy changes, technological advances, and lessons learnt from recent projects. Bearing in mind that over 60% of developed-funded archaeological work undertaken annually in Britain includes Post-Medieval, Industrial, and 20th century deposits and sites this a timely publication.

The supplementary guidance has a collection of case studies illustrating the archaeological aspects of several UK projects. It follows on from the CIRIA C672 guidance, ‘Archaeology and development – a good practice guide to managing risk and maximising benefit’, published in 2008. Each of the eleven case studies presented describes the aims of the construction scheme, the archaeological challenges or opportunities faced, the approach taken, and the challenges and outcomes lessons learned.

Several of these case studies include industrial archaeology and heritage sites. They include World War II structures recorded as part of the realigment of the coast at Medmerry, west of Selsey Bill near Chichester, Sussex; repair of the sluices gates and the replacement of cast iron wheel supports for Thomas Telford’s category A listed Mound Sluices Bridge of 1816, at Loch Fleet, Sutherland; the recording of a 19th century iron-built paddle steamer wreck in the Thames estuary prior to dredging; and 18th and 19th century urban archaeology at the University of Edinburgh campus.

The report can be downloaded for free by following this link: The role of archaeology in construction – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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