Archaeological watching brief by Commercial Archaeology

How an archaeological watching brief can become expensive for a developer

Complex and significant archaeology can cause significant delays on site

An archaeological watching brief can become a very expensive and time costly requirement for the developer. The Written Schemes of Investigation (WSIs) for watching briefs all contain a section which states that in the event of archaeological remains being uncovered which cannot be dealt with under the watching brief remit then sufficient time and resources must be allocated to deal with them.

Read – The archaeological watching brief – a double edged sword »

The more complex and significant the archaeology, the more expensive and time consuming the archaeological work required will be, frequently necessitating a larger team of archaeologists and sufficient time for them to excavate and record the archaeological features.

Remember, as a watching brief is being undertaken during active construction work, encountering important archaeological remains can lead to downtime for plant and serious delays in the construction programme.

When a different archaeological strategy can save costs

In addition, on large-scale development projects where there needs to be constant archaeological monitoring the costs of the watching brief can also mount up given that the charge rate generally for the attendance of an archaeologist ranges between £250 and £300 per day. In some cases, a developer might actually end up saving a substantial amount of money if a different type of archaeological strategy is adopted from the outset.

Even in cases where at application stage the developer has commissioned evaluation of a site through geophysical survey and/or trial trenching, which suggested low potential for archaeological remains being present it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Archaeology is unpredictable and the larger the project the greater the chances of encountering buried remains which may have gone undetected at evaluation stage.

So before considering trying to negotiate a watching brief with the Local Planning Authority Archaeologist (who may say yes or no), take advice on whether this is advisable for your particular scheme.

A good consultant should be able to make an informed judgement on what risk a watching brief might pose to your development and if needed be able to suggest alternative approaches which could minimise the risk and the costs which could accompany it.