The HOWLETT Consultancy for Archaeological Services The HOWLETT Consultancy for Archaeological Services

Q: Do I have to be a commercial corporation to employ the services of The Howlett Consultancy?
No. The Howlett Consultancy undertakes commissions for clients of all types from private individuals to national and multi-national corporations.

Q: Is there an upper or lower limit to the size of project that The Howlett Consultancy will accept?
No. The Howlett Consultancy projects vary from single house plots to golf courses, gravel quarries and new towns.

Q: What is an archaeological watching brief?
A watching brief normally takes place during the construction phase of new building or the soil-stripping phase of aggregate extraction. They are usually undertaken in response to an archaeological planning condition. In practice they involve the presence of an experienced archaeologist on-site to observe and identify any archaeological remains. The archaeologist would record any less-significant remains found. However, important finds may require more extensive excavation by an outside team. Watching briefs may be "constant" (i.e. a permanent archaeological presence maintained throughout construction) or "intermittent".

Q: What is preservation "in-situ"?
Where well-preserved and important archaeological remains survive within a development site, the planning authority may require their preservation "in-situ". This means that they must be left entirely undisturbed by any development. In a few instances, such remains are sufficiently extensive that the planning authority refuses to grant planning approval. However, in most cases planning approval is given with a condition that the part of the site containing the important remains is left undisturbed. This sometimes leads to a re-design of the development proposals.

Q: What is an appraisal?
An archaeological appraisal is a rapid office-based assessment and review of available records. The aim is to identify whether the site of a proposed development is likely to contain any archaeological remains.

Q: Why is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) important in the practice of archaeology?
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the ways in which it is recommended that planning authorities make decisions within the planning system, which includes the treatment of archaeological remains, historic buildings and monuments, and sites where there is potential for unidentified archaeological remains to be present. The NPPF was first issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in March 2012 and last updated in June 2019. The document says that where a site on which development is proposed includes, or has the potential to include, heritage assets with archaeological interest, local planning authorities should require developers to submit a desk-based assessment and, where necessary, undertake a field evaluation. The implementation of a field evaluation may need to be done before planning permission is granted, so that the results may be considered when deciding whether planning approval should be given; however, in other instances, the implementation of a field evaluation can be achieved through a 'pre-commencement' planning condition. If a development site is shown to contain significant archaeological remains, the NPPF also supports planning authorities in requiring undisturbed preservation or 'full' excavation, or other suitable mitigation measures.

Q: What is an archaeological archive?
An ordered collection of all archaeological artefacts and the written documentary record from an archaeological project. Archaeological archives are normally prepared by the archaeological contractor that undertook the project and at the end of the work the archive is normally deposited at a county storage facility, local museum or similar. Archaeological artefacts remain the property of landowner, unless some other arrangement is agreed.

Q: What is an assessment?
An assessment, usually desk-based, is undertaken at an early stage of the process of identifying any potential archaeological interest. It brings together all evidence and current knowledge about the site, in order to make an assessment of archaeological potential.

Q: What is an archaeological curator?
A person or organisation which, by virtue of official or statutory duties is responsible for the conservation and management of archaeological remains and evidence (also known as the "archaeological resource"). In practice the archaeological curators are Local Authorities - County Councils and unitary authorities in England and Wales and the Regions in Scotland. English Heritage acts as curatorial authority for most London Boroughs and has special statutory responsibilities with regard to Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

Q: What is a desk-top or desk-based survey and report?
A desk-top survey is frequently the first stage of the investigation of a site. It assesses the likelihood and possible location of archaeological remains and their potential significance.

As its name implies, it relies largely on research of the paper-based record of the site. It usually includes consultation of the local "sites and monuments record" (SMR), published articles, unpublished reports of previous archaeological work, and modern and historic maps and plans. A site visit and preliminary walk-over survey may also be included at this stage.

Desk-based studies may also contain an assessment of the likely effects of the proposed development on the archaeological potential of the area. It can also present a preliminary outline of ways in which the effects of the development may be limited and controlled. Archaeological Desk-based surveys within the planning and development process are paid for by the applicant seeking planning permission and are frequently undertaken by archaeological consultants.

Q: What is an archaeological mitigation strategy?
An archaeological mitigation strategy is a statement of proposals for reducing the overall effect of a development on archaeological remains within the site. The strategy will normally consist of one or more of the following:
         • Preservation in-situ.
         • Modifications to the development design proposals.
         • Excavation
         • Archaeological watching brief and recording.

Q: What is a Sites and Monuments Record (SMR)?
Sites and Monuments Records are collections of archaeological data and the information is mostly collected on a county basis. Most SMRs are maintained by County Councils although English Heritage maintains the SMRs for the London Boroughs and the National Trust now collects archaeological data on its own properties.

SMRs contain information generated from a variety of sources, including archaeological excavation reports, cropmarks seen on aerial photographs and accidental and 'stray' finds reported to County Councils. Although the SMRs are valuable sources of archaeological information, they are limited in their usefulness by the unsystematic collection of the information they contain. They cannot be relied upon to provide a complete picture of known or suspected archaeological sites in an area.

Q: What is the Welsh organisation, Cadw?
Cadw (pronounced "cad-oo") is an executive agency of the Welsh Assembly, responsible for the protection of Welsh Ancient Monuments, and has similar responsibilities and powers in Wales to those of English Heritage in England.

Q: What is an archaeological brief?
An archaeological brief gives an outline of the aims and scope of archaeological work that a prospective developer is expected to arrange in order to satisfy the requirements of the planning authority. Briefs are normally issued by the local authority's archaeologists.

Q: What is an archaeological contractor?
An archaeological contractor is an appropriately qualified and experienced individual or organisation, able to carry out archaeological projects. The contractor is retained by a prospective developer to undertake surveys and fieldwork either before determination of a planning application or in response to planning conditions.

Q: What is an evaluation?
An evaluation is a limited programme of fieldwork to determine the presence or absence of archaeological remains within a specified area. Where archaeological remains are found to be present an attempt is then made to determine their extent, depth, period, and quality of preservation. Methods used are non-intrusive (aerial photography, field-walking, geophysical survey etc) or intrusive (test-pitting, trial trenching). Evaluations are normally undertaken in response to a Local Authority brief and results are usually required before a planning authority determines the application. Results are also used to decide whether further archaeological work will be required as part of a planning condition and the nature of that work, which may involve detailed "open area" excavation.