F uller Long are pleased to announce that Sophie Bell has joined our Heritage and Archaeology team, giving us greater capacity to deliver Archaeological Desk-Based Assessments (ADBA) as well as introducing Historic Environment Desk-Based Assessments (HEDBA) to our repertoire.

Sophie Bell

Archaeology Consultant

Sophie has a vast amount of experience producing detailed Historic Environment, Heritage and Archaeological Desk-Based Assessments and we are pleased to have her on our team.

Desk-Based Assessments 

A common requirement set by a Local Planning Authority on those working within the development sector, as well as homeowners (when considering an extension), is the submission of a Desk-Based Assessment, often referred to as either an Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment (ADBA) or a Historic Environment Desk-Based Assessment (HEDBA)

These two assessments effectively utilise the same approach to their production and are designed to achieve the same overall goal – the provision of a basis to understand what aspects of the archaeological and historic environment might influence and be affected by a proposed scheme. 

The difference between the two types of assessment is largely based on what they focus on. In the case of an ADBA, the focus of this work is based on the likely ‘archaeological’ resource within a specified area, that is below ground (sub surface) heritage. A HEDBA provides a more holistic approach to what it is intended to assess. They therefore cover ‘all aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time – the ‘historic environment’. This can include all surviving physical remains of past human activity, whether visible, buried or submerged, and landscaped and planted or managed flora.

What are they?

A desk-based assessment is a formal program of study focused on a specified area or site. They are intended as a means of determining the nature, extent and significance of the archaeological or historic environment resource within a specified area as far as is reasonably possible based on shared professional judgement and values. 

They consist of the analysis of existing sources of information including: written, graphic, photographic and electronic information such as historic maps and data from a local Historic Environment Record (HER), to historic archive material. This information is then used to establish what heritage assets, such as listed buildings and scheduled monuments, are known to exist in a given area or site, and what potential the area or site in question has to contain heritage assets or archaeological remains – their extent, quality and level of importance in relation to local, regional and national criteria. 

In line with professional standards, a DBA will also be informed by a site and study area visit. This is used to assess the character of the site and area, identify visible historic features and assess possible factors which may affect the survival or condition of known or potential assets.

The available evidence collected is then used to inform a written assessment. This assessment will set out clearly what the heritage interest of a site or area is or could ‘potentially’ be, its likely significance (the importance of the resource) in line with agreed research and or conservation objectives, and how a proposed scheme of works or development might impact on the heritage resource identified. 

Importantly, this in turn, allows a developer or homeowner to understand and manage ‘risk’. That is, how might the identified heritage resource affect gaining a planning permission and or program of works, and what resources need to be considered to provide appropriate mitigation to avoid or reduce potential harm to the heritage resource within the site. 

When are they required or simply useful?

Desk Based Assessments are applicable under a variety of circumstances. These include:

Pre-Acquisition: clients looking to acquire land for development can help manage risk and inform purchase prices by undertaking a DBA in advance of purchase. The DBA can provide a base to understand if, and if so, what type of constraints a site may be subject to. 

Pre-Application: DBAs can be used to inform how best to manage potential risk during the master planning and design stages. This can help ensure that a scheme can be progressed based on mitigating potential harm to heritage assets or archaeological remains in the most cost effective way. A DBA is often also required in support of a valid planning application. It provides a means to evidence what may or may not be affected by a scheme and how that scheme has mitigated for potential impacts to enable a scheme to be either validated and or progressed with less risk of delay to programme.

Application: following submission of a planning application a local planning authority may require additional information where they feel they have insufficient material to make an informed decision on the impacts of the scheme on the archaeological potential of a site or wider historic environment. 

Desk Base Assessments are also often required in support of scoping reports and the production of environmental statements as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

In all these cases, a desk-based assessment can provide a clearer indication of the potential for archaeology or heritage interests to be present within a given site or study area.

Who can undertake a DBA?

A suitably qualified archaeologist or historic environment professional can produce a DBA so long as they meet professional standards and the assessments use all appropriate sources and expertise.

How can we help?

Fuller Long can provide a range of cost-effective desk-based studies, tailored to requirements to assess the likely archaeological or historic environment potential of a given site or area. We can also provide advice and support when engaging with LPA archaeological advisors and help project manage programs of archaeological works if they are required. If you would like to discuss how we can help, please do get in contact with us. 

If you are looking for help with an archaeological matter please email hello@fullerlong.com