How to spot a bad Heritage Archaeology consultant

Eight ways to spot a bad heritage and archaeology consultant

Helen Martin-Bacon of Commercial Archaeology has added a third article to accompany her recent pieces The historic environment – choosing a good consultant part one and part two.

To round off my first two blogs on what qualities make for a good historic environment consultant i.e. a consultant who provides advice and guidance to clients in all matters archaeological and heritage related, I present below a number of characteristics which mark out the bad HE consultant.

As archaeology and heritage, in particular buried archaeological remains, can pose a substantial risk to development of all kinds a developer is well-advised to check out the consultant he or she is thinking of appointing.  Making the wrong choice can lead the developer into a whole world of trouble and strife he or she could well do without.


Makes promises which cannot be kept about the scope of archaeological work a developer is required to undertake.


Downplays the significance, therefore the risk, that a developer faces from the presence of archaeological remains or heritage assets within a proposed development site


Fails to make the client aware of the processes, techniques and requirements of archaeological investigation (it is after all something of an arcane profession)


Fails to engage in the correct communication protocols and with members of the client’s wider design team


Antagonises Local Planning Authority Archaeologists (curators) with a heavy handed know it all attitude which can create more problems for a client than adopting a reasonable polite negotiating stance


Has little or no experience of actual archaeological fieldwork but fails to see why this might be a problem when advising clients on what investigations are necessary and how they will be undertaken


Does not warn the client of the full implications of finding important archaeological remains within the proposed development site, especially when the client has a pre-commencement archaeological condition to discharge (mission creep can be lucrative for the HE consultant)


Sees the archaeological watching brief as the best outcome a client can get in terms of archaeological investigation even when it patently isn’t so putting the client and their construction programme at risk