UK archaeological sea find rules set

UK seabed landlord the Crown Estate has launched a set of rules for dealing with archaeological discoveries uncovered on the seabed through offshore renewable energy activity.

The so-called ‘Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries’, initially implemented in draft form by UK heritage practice Wessex Archaeology in 2010, has already helped protect over 400 discoveries, such as peat and wood that give an insight into the past environment of the Dogger Bank in the North Sea.

Since 2012, the UK offshore wind industry has seen significant growth and Wessex Archaeology has worked with developers and the Crown Estate to further update and refine the protocol as more projects move into the construction and operation phase.

“Capitalising on our role as manager of the UK seabed, our support for this invaluable archaeological protocol is part of our strategy to help progress offshore renewables through the development process, such as gaining planning consent, as well as helping secure the nation’s heritage,” says Huub den Rooijen, head of offshore wind at the Crown Estate.

"The logistical difficulties of working offshore mean that even after employing the most innovative investigative techniques during the planning stages, there is still the potential for new archaeological discoveries to be made during the development of offshore wind farms,” says Euan McNeill, director of Wessex Archaeology’s coastal and marine team.

“This protocol provides a ‘safety net’ that will support project teams throughout the offshore development process and promotes best practice across the industry,” he adds.

“During our work we have understood that some of the best resources for learning about the past actually lie under the sea far from the coast so the protocol will help the offshore wind industry and others to deal with archaeological finds,” says Gareth Lewis, head of offshore development at Dogger Bank developer Forewind.

The protocol is intended to support and complement the existing statutory and legal requirements for archaeological discoveries in the marine environment.