The importance of early engagement with the the Local Planning Authority
There are pros and cons attached to trial trenching as with any other archaeological evaluation technique.
The pros are that from the developer’s perspective trial trenching can be a way of establishing the significance of any archaeological remains within the area of the scheme and therefore allow risks to be judged and contingencies put in place to deal with the archaeology at an early enough stage to preclude the potential for unforeseen costs and delays later on in the development process.
However, as with geophysical survey, trial trenching is not completely foolproof and there can be occasions when the trenching does not provide an accurate picture of either the extent or significance of the archaeological remains present and this only becomes apparent when further archaeological work in the form of a larger excavation is undertaken.
In these circumstances a developer needs a good archaeological consultant on hand to manage and minimise the concomitant risks posed to the scheme.
Potential scale of trial trenching
Whilst trial trenching is a fairly rapid and cost effective method of evaluating small to medium sized sites it can become problematic on large sites because the number of trial trenches needed to meet the sample percentage required by the Local Planning Authority can be considerable. At planning application stage this can be a big cost for the developer.
It is in the interests of any developer to engage at an early stage in the planning process with the Local Planning Authority to confirm what the scope of any trial trenching is likely to be. It is also advisable for the developer to take advice beforehand from an archaeological consultant who should be able to offer guidance on the best approach to be made to the Local Planning Authority and who should be able to negotiate an appropriate and proportionate response on the scope of the trial trenching with the authority.
Highlighting potential risk for the developer
The aim of those negotiations should be not only to provide a trenching plan which will inform the Local Planning Authority on the significance of any archaeological remains present but crucially informs the developer on the nature of the risk he or she faces from the presence of the archaeological remains which will be impacted as a result of the development.