The early identification of the potential for archaeological remains and an assessment of the risk they pose to the development is fundamental to controlling the cost of a programme of archaeological work.
Ideally, archaeological considerations should be included in initial feasibility studies and specialist archaeological input into preliminary design meetings should be considered. An initial site appraisal will identify potential archaeological risks based on easily accessible information about known archaeological sites. This will allow unacceptable risks to be identified and a budget for assessing and managing other risks to be planned. Sources of initial information can include historic environment records. It should be noted that historic environment records can, by definition, only include information on known archaeological sites. Public sector archaeologists may also be able to give information and advice, either formally or informally, about areas of archaeological potential.
Although likely to be required later at the planning stage, early preparation of a desk based assessment at the design stage of a project will provide an assessment of risk based on the collation of known sources of information. Known archaeological remains of national importance – for which preservation in situ is likely to be required – will be identified, as will areas of higher risk, in order to inform the design scheme. Issues relating to the setting of archaeological remains may also be identified at this point.
An initial site appraisal or risk assessment can usually be completed within a week. A desk-based assessment, including accessing the relevant archives and data-sources, will usually take 2-3 weeks to complete. The timescale for completion of an initial site appraisal varies from country to country but is likely to take between 5 and 20 days. The timescale for a desk based assessment will depend entirely on the size and complexity of the development and potential for archaeological remains.