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Government of

Information and public services for the Island of Jersey

L'înformâtion et les sèrvices publyis pouor I'Île dé Jèrri


Why archaeology is important

The Island’s archaeological landscape is the product of human activity over thousands of years. A rich variety of archaeological remains survive above and below ground in Jersey, along its shoreline, and within its waters.

The range of known sites of value includes:

  • palaeolithic site at La Cotte de St Brelade
  • neolithic sites such as the passage graves at La Hougue Bie and La Hougue des Géonnais
  • iron age promontory forts at Frèmont and Le Câtel de Rozel

We use the concept of ‘total archaeology’ that applies to archaeology above and below the ground and water of the Island and its territorial waters, and within the fabric of its buildings.

Archaeological remains are irreplaceable. They are evidence of the past development of our Island’s civilization. They can contain irreplaceable information about our past and the potential for an increase in future knowledge. They are part of our sense of identity and are valuable both for their own sake and for their role in education, leisure and tourism.

Our archaeological remains vary enormously in their state of preservation and in the extent of their appeal to the public. Upstanding remains are familiar enough; represented by dolmens and coastal forts and castles, but less obvious archaeological remains are also to be found in the Island.

There remain many gaps in our knowledge about the archaeology of Jersey. Questions such as where the Neolithic people lived and who was in Jersey during the Gallo-Roman period and the Dark Ages remain unanswered. That the Island was occupied throughout these times can hardly be doubted, and it is the archaeological resource that holds the answers to these questions.

Categories of protection in place

Sites and structures can be can be protected for their known or potential archaeological interest as:

  • Listed building or place (which are Sites of Special Interest in law)
  • Areas of Archaeological Potential (AAP)

The Listing process is set out in law to ensure it is open and transparent, allows consultation with owners and allows occupiers to be notified. 

Why a building or place is listed.

Areas of archaeological potential are designated where it is possible to infer the likelihood of the survival of other archaeological material; where there are find spots of limited artefact evidence, or where other documentary evidence might indicate the potential existence of archaeology.

Criteria for areas of archaeological potential 

Archaeology and planning decisions

Archaeology is a material consideration in the planning process. The desirability of preserving archaeological remains is based on the presumption in favour of their preservation in situ. The archaeological context and wider setting will be assessed in the dealing with planning applications.
To ensure there is a degree of certainty, known sites are defined as Listed Places and areas of some potential significance are designated as Areas of Archaeological Potential. These designations ensure that archaeology is fully considered in assessing proposals for development or other work which might damage the asset.

Where important archaeological remains and their settings (whether formally protected or not), are affected by proposed development, there should be a presumption in favour of their physical preservation. We recommend early discussions with applicants, developers and their archaeologists to allow the full consideration of the needs of archaeology.

When considering sites that have a known archaeological designations, negotiations with applicants can help by preparing sympathetic designs. For example using foundations which avoid disturbing the remains altogether or minimise damage by raising ground levels under a proposed new structure as well as the careful siting of landscaped or open areas. There are techniques available for sealing archaeological remains underneath buildings or landscaping. This will help secure their preservation for the future even though they remain inaccessible for the time being.

In some cases the archaeological interest is so clear that a request for a desk based assessment will be made. In other cases the special interest may be so significant that the development could be refused.

Check if a building or place is Listed or has archaeological potential.

Information needed for planning applications

The possible presence of Archaeological interest will often be a known planning constraint. When assessing any planning application the following options can be used to make sure archaeological interest is managed within the planning process. In most cases you will need to pay for the archaeological assessment or evaluation required to make sure an informed planning decision is taken.

Desk based assessment

If the archaeological interest is known to exist, a desk based assessment (DBA) will be needed. This can follow a brief issued by the department or follow a standard format. An archaeologist will write the assessment.

It will indicate the likelihood of archaeological interest and recommend any mitigation measures to manage any impacts on likely archaeology. This can be done before the determination of a planning application if the proposals would appear to have the potential to damage special interest of a Listed site.

The DBA may be requested post decision to assess need for further archaeological work. The agreed mitigation measures are used to take the next steps which may include a redesign of the scheme or in extreme cases a refusal of the application because of the impact on significant archaeology.

Site survey or excavation evaluation

If the impact on archaeological interest is significant and is shown in the desk based assessment further pre planning decision evaluation may be needed to make an informed decision.

This evaluation may involve non-ground breaking works such as magnetometer surveys or may require defined excavation in trenched areas to a defined archaeological ‘written scheme of investigation’.

For ground breaking works, the department will issue a project brief which will require the applicant’s archaeologist to write a project design which is submitted to the department for approval for the evaluation work to ensure the work is carried out to a consistent and high standard. The evaluation may involve trial trenches, excavation of parts of the site or bore-hole samples.

Once complete findings are used to propose any further mitigation measures. These may include a redesign of the scheme or in rare cases, a refusal of the application because of the impact on significant archaeology.

How planning conditions are used

Archaeological conditions may form part of a decision notice to manage the assessment of the impact of the development on the known or assumed archaeological resources of the site. Conditions are likely to require the following measures.

Watching brief

A watching brief protects archaeological remains during construction and to ensure that reasonable access is given to the developer’s approved archaeologist to carry out a "watching brief" during the construction period. It can also be used to specifically to carry out archaeological investigation and recording in the course of the permitted operations on site. The conditions of the brief ensure if remains of archaeological significance are disturbed in the course of the construction work they can be recorded and, if necessary, emergency salvage undertaken.

Trial trench(s)

If the archeological interest is very sensitive, the developer will be asked to arrange for an archaeological field evaluation to be carried out. This could be prior to a decision on the planning application or after the decision is made. This sort of evaluation different from full archaeological excavation. It is normally a rapid ground survey and small-scale trial trenching carried out by a professionally qualified archaeological organisation or archaeologist.

Archaeological excavation and recording

The physical preservation of archaeological remains on the site may not be justified and the approved development would result in the destruction of archaeological remains. When consent is issued for this there will need to be satisfactory provision for the excavation and recording of the archaeological remains to ensure preservation by record.

From the archaeological point of view, this should be regarded as a second best option. Excavation and recording will be carried out before development commences, working to a project design by an approved archaeologist. This may be actioned by a planning condition or a Planning Obligation Agreement.

The science of archaeology is developing rapidly. Excavation means the total destruction of evidence (apart from removable artefacts) from which future techniques 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 preferred.

Unexpected finds

We use desk based assessments, trial evaluations and excavations to minimise the occasions when unexpected finds on a development site cause development to stop and allow a proper assessment of the value of the finds. We hope this is a rare circumstance, as we continue to understand the Island’s historic development and archaeological resources.

If unexpected archaeological finds are reported it’s important have a full and proper understanding of the find, its importance and then to make an informed decision once all the facts are known. Work will most likely be required to stop on site and a qualified archaeologist appointed by the developer and close liaison with the department to expedite matters.

Where fresh archaeological discoveries are deemed to be of particular significance, in accordance with published criteria, there is an option provisionally List the remains. In that event developers would need to seek separate consent before they continue work. It is also open to the Chief Officer to seek a revocation a planning permission if deemed necessary, in which case there is provision for compensation. This is a rare occurrence as it should prove possible for the parties to resolve their differences through voluntary discussion and for a satisfactory compromise to be reached.

Criteria for Listing buildings and places.

Recording archaeology

Jersey Heritage’s specific function relating to archaeological remains is to advise in relation to archaeological remains and specifically on whether particular remains are worthy of protection, through the Listing of buildings and places of public importance. Their remit includes looking after part of the archaeological record and the promotion of public awareness and access to this.

How are human remains dealt with

In any brief for any archaeological excavation there will be a detailed response if human remains are found during the course of any fieldwork. This will include relevant notifications and cessation of work in the part of the site where the remains are located. The approved archaeologist’s project design for the archaeological oversight will include the provision to deal with any discovery.

What happens after excavation

The archaeological contractor who will be carrying out evaluations or excavations will make appropriate arrangements for the preparation and storage of the project archive, including samples and artefacts. The archive should be prepared in accordance with the archive deposition guidelines issued by the Jersey Heritage and in accordance with the guidance contained within the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) Standard and Guidance for Archaeological Field Evaluation. The financial arrangements and the contract for the accession of the archive between the contractor and Jersey Heritage will be agreed prior to any fieldwork commencing.

The Import and Export Control (Jersey) Order 2006 prohibits the export (without a licence) material of archaeological interest found within or relating to the Channel Islands. This includes finds, for example, temporarily removed from Jersey for the purposes of post-excavation study. This means archaeological contractors need to contact Jersey Heritage to receive a site code from, to confirm archive arrangements and to start the export licence application process when required. The aim is to ensure that archaeological contractors deposit the full site archive including all finds after completion of post-excavation work with Jersey Heritage, with the agreement of the owners. The post excavation work should include the processing, primary research, analysis and investigative conservation necessary to prepare the site archive for preservation in a usable form. Archaeological contractors will also be required to produce a full report for publication. It will be necessary to make provision for the long term storage of both finds and the site archive with Jersey Heritage. On completion, the site archive will be prepared in a format agreed with Jersey Heritage.

In the event of the legal owner(s) wishing to retain all or part of the site archive, they become responsible for the future preservation and maintenance of any material element of the archive. The site archive can only be transferred to the legal owner after all necessary processing, research, analysis and investigative/stabilising conservation and a full report for publication, has been completed. The owner will then need to ensure that the long-term preservation of the archive is secured and that it is accessible for future research.

Marine archaeology

Underwater cultural heritage in Jersey includes objects such as wrecks and submerged ancient landscapes. There is potential for close to 400 wreck sites around the Island, only a small number of which have been identified and recorded. There is a need to undertake further research that would identify known and potential underwater sites of cultural and historic significance including prehistoric sites.

The aim will be to identify the significance of sites and add this inventory to the historic environment record. It is unlikely that all the vessels identified or sites will have survived. The effective protection and management of underwater cultural heritage is dependent on the developing necessary policies for their designation as Listed places. Their protection as such will allow future licensing of access to and salvage. This may involve developing appropriate legislation to protect the underwater cultural heritage using the 2001 UNESCO Convention, follow the UK’s 2009 Maritime and Coastal Access Act and take account of Guernsey’s The Wreck and Salvage Law, 1986 (amended 1991).

Metal detecting

Metal detecting over a Listed place is not permitted without specific permission. In some cases, when linked to archaeological investigation for example, such permission is given to assist understanding of a site. Usually this is tied to a planning condition.

Where to get further information

The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIFA) is the UK's professional institution for archaeologists in Britain. It is concerned with defining and maintaining proper professional standards and ethics in field archaeology.

All members conform to a Code of Conduct and there is a disciplinary procedure for investigating and dealing with allegations of improper conduct. Any archaeological work, including field work, carried out to deal with planning related research and excavation will be supervised by a member or associate member of the CIFA or other agreed archeologically recognised professional body.

Schedule of Sites

Check if a building or place is Listed or has archaeological potential.

Check the lists below to see if the site is an Area of Archaeological Potential:

Schedule list - SPG policy note 1
Spots and flint scatter areas - SPG policy note 1
Menhirs - SPG policy note 1
Hougues and megalithic remains - SPG policy note 1
Prehistoric landscapes, habitation sites and promontory forts - SPG policy note 1
Possible pre-historic sites AAP - SPG policy note 1

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