Contents Home Ladybridge Planning Application Effects of Quarrying Viewing the Henges Helping Us Friends of Thornborough Latest News Links


PPG 16

Issued in November, 1990, and currently under review, Planning Policy Guide 16 set out the government’s policy on archaeological remains on land and how they should be preserved or recorded. Relevant paragraphs include the following [non-mandatory] advice to local authorities:

6. Care must be taken to ensure that archaeological remains are not needlessly or thoughtlessly destroyed. They can contain irreplaceable information about our past and the potential for an increase in future knowledge. They are part of our sense of national identity and are valuable both for their own sake and for their role in education, leisure and tourism.

8. Where nationally important archaeological remains, whether scheduled or not, and their settings, are affected by proposed development there should be a presumption in favour of their physical preservation. (but S27 implies that this advice relates only to visible remains).

13. "Preservation by record" should be regarded as a second-best option. The science of archaeology is developing rapidly. Excavation means the total destruction of evidence (apart from removable artefacts) from which future technologies could almost certainly extract more information than is currently possible. Excavation is also expensive and time-consuming, and discoveries may have to be evaluated in a hurry against an inadequate research framework. The preservation in situ of important archaeological remains is therefore nearly always to be preferred.

15. Detailed local development plans should include policies for the protection, enhancement and preservation of sites of archaeological interest and of their settings. The proposals map should define the areas and sites to which the policies and proposals apply.

16. Archaeological remains identified and scheduled as being of national importance should normally be earmarked in development plans for preservation. Authorities should bear in mind that not all nationally important remains meriting preservation will necessarily be scheduled; such remains and, in appropriate circumstances, other scheduled archaeological remains of more local importance, may also be identified in development plans as particularly worthy of preservation.

18. The desirability of preserving an ancient monument and its setting is a material consideration in determining planning applications whether that monument is scheduled or unscheduled.

24. Where it is not feasible to preserve remains, an acceptable alternative may be to arrange prior excavation, during which the archaeological evidence is recorded.

19/20. Advises on early consultation between developers and planning authorities/English Heritage.

21/22. Necessity for advance archaeological field excavations.

25. Where planning authorities decide that the physical preservation in situ of archaeological remains is not justified in the circumstances of the case, and that development resulting in the destruction of the archaeological remains should proceed, it would be entirely reasonable for the authority to satisfy itself before granting planning permission, that the developer has made appropriate and satisfactory provision for the excavation and recording of the remains. Such excavation and recording should be carried out before development commences, working to a project brief prepared by the planning authority and taking advice from archaeological consultants….Such agreements should also provide for the subsequent publication of the results of the excavation of the excavation.

26. Options for agreements covering excavation.

27. The case for the preservation of archaeological remains must, however, be assessed on the individual merits of each case….

29/30. Planning conditions attached to consents, including option of a "watching brief".

31. Where fresh archaeological discoveries (made while development is in progress) are deemed by the Secretary of State, on English Heritage’s advice [presumably relying upon notification from the developer, its contracted archaeologist or the County Archaeologist] to be of national importance, in accordance with Annex 4, the Secretary of State for National Heritage has the power to schedule the remains. It is also open to a planning authority or the Secretary of State to revoke a planning permission if deemed necessary, in which case there is provision for compensation (to the developer).

Annex 1: Key Bodies & Organisations

English Heritage One function is to advise the Secretary of State whether particular remains are worthy of scheduling. It may provide financial assistance towards the upkeep of ancient monuments and towards archaeological investigation. With the consent of the Secretary of State, EH may acquire or take ancient monuments into guardianship [but no mention is made of the setting or access].

SMR Responsibilities of local authorities regarding the Sites & Monuments Records.

Local Planning Authorities They may acquire ancient monuments and grant-aid their preservation and can help to present and manage historic sites which contribute to the local landscape, amenities and economy of their area. They have a crucial role in safeguarding the archaeological heritage through their development control functions.

The British Archaeologists’ and Developers’ Liaison Group A permanent body initiated jointly by the British Property Association and the Standing Conference of Archaeological Unit Managers. (The latter is the national body representing some 75 archaeological units, and endorsed by English Heritage, the Council for British Archaeology, the Institute of Field Archaeologists and the Department of the Environment.) The Group fosters voluntary co-operation between developers and archaeologists through its Code of Practice.

Council for British Archaeology The leading representative body for archaeology in Britain, it seeks to co-ordinate and represent the views of the archaeological community and presents those views to government and others. It seeks to promote public interest in archaeology and is a source of advice on local plan policies.

The Institute of Field Archaeologists is the UK’s professional institution for archaeologists in Britain, concerned, through its Code of Conduct, with defining and maintaining proper professional standards and ethics in field archaeology.

Annex 3

19. Part 11 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Area Act 1979 provides for the designation of Areas of Archaeological Importance, either by the Secretary of State for National Heritage or by local planning authorities.

20. The Secretary of State has decided that no more AAI’s should be designated until an assessment of the effectiveness of PPG16 has been undertaken.

Annex 4

Secretary of State’s criteria for scheduling ancient monuments:

(iv) Group Value: the value of a single monument may be greatly enhanced by its association with related contemporary monuments.

(viii) Potential: on occasion, the nature of the evidence cannot be specified precisely, but it may still be possible to document reasons anticipating its existence and importance and so to demonstrate the justification for scheduling. This is usually confined to sites rather than upstanding monuments.


Comment: To prevent further quarrying within the vicinity of the henges, it appears from PPG16 to be necessary to prove that the setting of the henges is of national importance.

What is "the setting"?

A critical problem at this complex of known monuments and unknown buried archaeology is that of defining its limits. As soon as a red line is drawn on a map around an area to give it a level of protection, the landscape outside that perimeter becomes "fair game" and yet may still contain sub-surface relics. One archaeologist has attempted to tackle this problem. Mr M.Griffiths was NYCC’s first County Archaeologist from October, 1975, and subsequently went into private practice with FAS, based at the University of York. When producing his archaeological survey to support Tilcon’s successful application in 1994 to quarry the present aggregates extraction pits north of the B6267, he included the following appraisal:

"These three monuments (the Thornborough Henges) are merely the most obvious components in a once extensive prehistoric ritual complex which also contained at least one cursus, a number of major pit alignments and scatters of burial monuments. The boundaries of this complex are relatively well defined to the west and south by the River Ure. Its eastern boundary has never been adequately defined however, and may extend several miles towards the A1 to include the henges at Nunwick, Hutton and Cana and the standing stones known as the Devil’s Arrows near Boroughbridge. Its northern boundary was almost certainly the Ings Goit (a small stream flowing west to east), which also forms the approximate northern boundary of the area proposed for mineral extraction. As a consequence, it must be assumed that the area of the proposed extraction lies within, though probably at the extreme margins of, the main prehistoric landscape."

In his report to the Planning Committee recommending approval, the County Minerals Officer simply records that "the County Council’s Archaeological Officer raises no objections subject to the imposition of a condition to safeguard archaeological interests." It is clear that, at that time, NYCC did not consider preserving the setting of the monuments "a material consideration", as advised by PPG 16, para.18.

The government has put forward a discussion paper, "Protecting our Historic Environment: Making the system work better" () as the first step in producing a new Ancient Monuments Act. Comment in "Current Archaeology", No.118, p188, points out that "many officers of English Heritage and others would like to see the process extended so that whole areas can be listed, though since listing, or scheduling as it now is, places an effective block on research, many researchers are opposed to this."


PPG 16 is a vast improvement on the pre-1990 situation as a tool for protecting the nation’s heritage. But, as with new taxes, private enterprise is adept at exploiting lines of least resistance. Developers have the resources to employ the best available experts to act on their behalf, whereas local communities must rely upon amateur protest when dissatisfied with a democratic system which is inadequate at the local level.

The present planning system effectively stacks the odds in favour of the developer and against local communities which want to preserve their heritage in situ, perhaps because the latter was not regarded as a stakeholder at the time it was established [1990]. As Mr Nicholson of Tarmac explained to the Friends of Thornborough on 4/3/04, the Aggregates Levy is effectively an indirect tax on the consumer who ends up paying it at the rate of £1.60 per ton. Although PPG 16 transfers the cost of uncovering archaeology from the state to the developer, those extra costs are simply passed on to the final consumer of the quarried product. So the public loses out on all counts as much of the archaeology that is recorded during development projects never reaches the public domain, being eventually published years later in some obscure specialist review.

So, PPG16 needs tightening up, a mechanism needs to be found to protect the surviving ritual landscape at Thornborough for unhurried study, and a sensitive landscape management plan devised.

Become totally un-henged:
Join the Friends of Thornborough at no cost
click here