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Desk Based Assessments, key to heritage planning

Alex Heritage ConsultantAlex Farnell (Senior Heritage Consultant) comments on a day of talks and discussions at a regional Desk Based Assessment (DBA) workshop organised by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) held on 13th September 2019. CIfA is the organisation that sets and oversees the standards for commercial archaeology in the UK.

Desk Based Assessments (DBAs) are an important tool in managing archaeological risk in relation to development. Early understanding of these issues can help to avoid unforeseen future costs and delays. They are also a key planning document, required under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which allow Local Authorities to take appropriate planning decisions in relation to heritage.

Early understanding of issues can help to avoid unforeseen costs and delays.

The workshop was a very interesting and worthwhile day of lively debate on some of the more complex issues surrounding the production of DBAs, and it was great to hear a variety of clearly expressed views from both local authorities and commercial practitioners.

Important to ensure the scope of the work is fully understood at the outset

One of the strongest themes to emerge was the importance of early consultation. This was emphasised by all the curators present on the day and is something that we at AB Heritage also feel is an essential part of ensuring the end result meets expectations. It ensures that the scope of the work is fully understood at the outset and allows for any site-specific requirements to be highlighted.

The day was also an opportunity for industry to feed back to CIfA on the fitness of the Standards and Guidance (S&G) in the context of current practice. Including a list of definitions of terms was one suggestion forwarded by myself, others included making the S&G more overarching with less specific focus on England. The idea being that more specific supplementary guidance could be developed on a regional basis.

AB Heritage strive to always meet the CIfA high standards and this day of discussions has assured me that the assessment reports produced by AB Heritage are among the most robust in the industry.

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Many thanks to Jen Parker Wooding and Kate Geary of CIfA for organising the workshop and to all the speakers on the day. Two further workshops are to be held in Edinburgh and Manchester.

Read more about Archaeological Desk-Based Assessments from AB Heritage

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