Archaeology 2025: Development-led Archaeology

Archaeology 2025 is a 10 year strategy which will inform the journey for Irish archaeology. The Royal Irish Academy Standing Committee for Archaeology, in collaboration with The Discovery Programme, recognise the need to review the infrastructure and profession of archaeology in Ireland to ensure that its unique status as a cultural, scientific and social resource plays a part in Ireland’s current recovery.

Consultation on an all-island, and EU, level will probe how archaeology best adjusts within new political, economic and social landscapes. The Archaeology 2025 Strategy will be published in 2016, and will be drawn from extensive archaeological consensus. The aim is to:

• guide the profession from the lessons learned towards a solid path to the future
• connect with other relevant spheres in a meaningful way
• bring vitality, growth and sustainability to archaeology

Below is the text of my submission to Archaeology 2025 on the subject of development-led archaeology. It is also my submission to The Grand Challenges for Archaeology: A Blogging Carnival at Doug’s Archaeology.

Development-led archaeology
In Ireland most archaeological work is carried out as a result of development that has an impact on archaeological heritage. Developers do not have an automatic right to carry out developments that impact archaeological heritage, the competent authority grants the developer the right to carry out the development on the basis that they implement a stated form of mitigation. This mitigation is often preservation by record of the archaeological heritage impacted. This process is an implementation of the Polluter Pays Principle which mandates that that the polluter must pay for the full economic cost of the damage done to the environment. However, many of the problems encountered with successfully completing archaeological mitigation projects arise from the fact that many developers do not pay the full economic cost of mitigation. As a result many mitigation projects remain uncompleted and the statutory authorities responsible for overseeing the process are underfunded and short-staffed.

Archaeological preservation by record is a multi-stage process that involves not only the onsite excavation work but the post-excavation process, final reporting and the curation of the artefacts and archaeological archive. The curation of archaeological artefacts has continuing cost well into the future which needs to be recognised. However planning conditions related to archaeology are often vague and do not explicitly sate what the complete mitigation process entails and that the developer is responsible for funding the whole process to completion. In order to clarify the situation planning conditions relating to archaeological mitigation should be much more detailed in their requirements. They need to explicitly state that archaeological preservation by record is a multi-stage process that is not complete until the competent authorities have been furnished with a final excavation report, all finds have been conserved and have been curated by the National Museum. The conditions should require the developer to furnish the competent authority with a final excavation report that has been certified by the National Monuments Service and a receipt from the National Museum for the curated finds.

To ensure that the finance is available to bring all archaeological mitigation work to a successful conclusion the developer should be required to provide an archaeology bond. Bonds are currently attached as planning conditions and may be drawn down in the event of a developer failing to complete the development to the required standard. Once the archaeology work has been fully completed and the developer completes a release of bond application the bond can be released to the developer. If the developer for whatever reason fails to fully fund the archaeological mitigation the bond can be used by the competent authority to fund the completion of the work.

Most archaeological contracts in Ireland are of the fixed price type which transfer the financial risk of the archaeological mitigation from the developer to the archaeologist. The risk to the archaeologist is increased by the fact that project tenders are often accepted on the basis of lowest price to the exclusion of other criteria. As it is not possible to be certain of the nature of buried archaeological remains before they are excavated, even if they have been the subject of assessment, archaeological mitigation projects run the risk of encountering archaeology that is more complex or of greater extent than identified in the original assessment. As a result these projects may run over budget. The management of this risk has important consequences for the successful completion of the archaeological mitigation project.

Where it is a recognised principle that the risk of encountering archaeology that is more complex or of greater extent than identified in the original assessment lies with the developer, in line with the Polluter Pays Principle, then sufficient funds should be negotiated to fully complete the archaeological mitigation work. However, where the developer insists that the originally agreed fixed price stands irrespective of the actual complexity or extent of archaeology then a situation arises that will jeopardise the successful archaeological mitigation. The developer has the right to have the archaeological mitigation carried out at a reasonable cost but should not have the right to transfer the risk of cost overruns onto an archaeologist who is a third party and does not have primary responsibility for the implementation of the planning conditions. This is contrary to the Polluter Pays Principle that the developer must pay the full economic cost of mitigating the impact. In this situation the developer should be required to fund the additional work, irrespective of any prior agreement with the archaeologist. Where a dispute arises as to the extent of the additional costs the dispute should be subject to arbitration by the archaeological licencing authority. Ultimately, unless the archaeological mitigation is completed, the final report is produced and the finds are curated the developer will not have complied with their planning conditions and any party could seek an order from the competent authority to have the conditions enforced or to have the recommended archaeology bond forfeit.

Who pays the cost of overseeing the licensing and excavation process?
Currently the National Monuments Service is funded directly by the State. However part of its functions are concerned with development control and the related issues of excavation licensing, archaeological reports, etc. As this workload would not arise where it not for the proposals of developers the Polluter Pays Principle suggests that the developer should pay a contribution towards the costs of the administration of this system. An Bord Pleanála, for example, charges a range of fees for its services relating to development proposals, and a similar range of charges should be considered by the National Monuments Service.

Who pays the cost of curating archaeological finds from development?
Currently the National Museum is funded directly by the State. However part of its functions relate to development control and the related issues of excavation licensing, archaeological reports, and the eventual curation of archaeological finds from developer-led excavations. As is the case with the National Monuments Service this workload would not arise where it not for the proposals of the developer and the Polluter Pays Principle suggests that the developer should pay a contribution towards the costs of the administration of this system. Archaeological consultancies charge developers fees for the storage of archaeological finds and samples and similar charges should be considered by the National Museum of Ireland.

Archaeological Consultancies
In Ireland most archaeological work is carried out within the parameters of the commercial sector of the economy whether the work is commissioned by the for-profit private sector, the commercial semi-state sector or the not for-profit governmental sector. The Irish commercial archaeological sector has relatively low barriers to market entry and relatively low start-up costs which combined with competitive project tendering determined by lowest cost, results in all participants competing on low price. As a result any advantages that might be gained from investments in buildings, training, staff, equipment or innovation are eroded away in the face of price competition. Is this the most appropriate model for conducting development-led archaeology?

The objective of archaeological consultancies in the development-led process is to implement State policy and create public goods by preserving by record a non-renewable cultural resource for current future and generations. Therefore archaeology can be defined as a public good. If we accept the principle that archaeology is providing a public good is it appropriate that the organisations carrying out the work are organised and funded as for-profit commercial companies. Should these organisations not be organised and funded in the manner of not-for-profit non-governmental organisations providing public goods such as public service broadcasters, charities, educational or arts organisations?

Recommendations
• In order to clarify what the complete archaeological mitigation process involves planning conditions relating to archaeological mitigation should be much more detailed in their requirements.

• To ensure that the finance is available to bring all archaeological mitigation work to a successful conclusion the developer should be required by the competent authority to provide an archaeology bond.

• Where an archaeological mitigation project encounters archaeology that is more complex or of greater extent than identified in the original assessment the developer should be responsible for the additional costs irrespective of any fixed price agreement in place.

• Developers should pay a contribution towards the costs of the National Monuments Service related to development control and excavation licensing.

• Developers should pay a contribution towards the costs of the National Museum related to development control, excavation licensing and the long term curation of artefacts.

• Consideration should be given as to whether the for-profit commercial model is the most appropriate for archaeological consultancies.

Cite this post as:

Mount, C. 2016. Archaeology 2025: Development-led Archaeology. Dr. Charles Mount Blog, 29 January 2016. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/index.php/archaeology-2025-development-led-archaeology