Archaeology and planning

National Policy

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) includes policy for local planning authorities and prospective developers on the treatment of the historic environment in the planning process. The effect of a planning application on the significance of a heritage asset or its settings is a consideration when we determine it.

The NPPF states that in determining planning applications we should take account of the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets.  'Significance' is defined as an assets value to this and future generations because of its archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic interest.

What is required of developers

Developers are expected to provide with their application a description of the significance of any heritage asset (and its setting) that will be affected by the proposed development. 

For minor alterations to historic standing structures or for small scale new developments this will normally involve the submission of a heritage statement.  For sites involving significant ground works in areas of archaeological potential a more detailed archaeological desk based assessment may be required. For applications involving significant alterations to poorly documented historic buildings a more detailed building assessment may be required.

Heritage Statements, desk based assessments and building assessments should be prepared by appropriately qualified individuals or organisations. Please not that for sites with archaeological potential an archaeological field evaluation may be necessary before we determine a planning application.

Sustaining significance and advancing understanding

Where important archaeological deposits are known or suspected to exist developers may be required to secure preservation of deposits in situ, for example by engineering re-design or by the reduction or relocation of impacts.

Where the loss of assets can be justified by the merits of a planning application, developers will be required to record and advance understanding of the significance of any assets to be lost in a manner proportionate to their importance, and to make this evidence (and any archive generated) publicly accessible.

Local policies

Oxford's archaeological remains are a finite resource, and once disturbed are irreplaceable. These remains represent an important long term asset for the residents and visitors of Oxford and are subject to specific local policies in the current Local Plan in order promote careful stewardship.

The Local Plan Proposals Map identifies a City Centre Archaeological Area where there is a high potential for significant archaeological remains.  There are also known concentrations of past human activity elsewhere in Oxford, including the historic village centres. Further detailed information on previously recorded archaeology within the local authority area is provided by the Oxford Archaeological Plan.

If developers are unsure about the potential archaeological interest of their site they should contact us for advice. Please note that for substantial developments pre-application charges may apply.

Archaeological conditions

Briefs setting out the archaeological recording requirements related to archaeological planning condition can be obtained from the City Council Archaeologist. These briefs can be used to obtain quotes from appropriately qualified archaeological contractors. If you require the services of an archaeological contractor a full list of registered organisations can be found on the Institute for Archaeologists website.

Archaeological Planning Conditions normally specify that development should not proceed until an appropriate archaeological contractor has agreed a method statement (also known as a Written Scheme of Investigation) which has been approved in writing by the local planning authority.

Designated Assets

Oxford currently has eleven Scheduled Ancient Monuments, 18 Conservation Areas, eleven Registered Parks and Gardens and over 1500 listed buildings. Information on these other designated assets can be obtained from The National Heritage List for England.

Scheduled monuments are subject to the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (as amended). Under this act it is an offence to damage a scheduled ancient monument. Consent must be obtained from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport for any proposed works.