Maximising the research potential from infrastructure projects

Posted on September 18, 2017


Another session from the CIfA conference, one especially for those working in commercial archaeology:

Session Details

Organisers: Dave A Petts, University of Durham; Andy J Howard, University of Durham and Landscape Research & Management, Bridgnorth


Large-scale archaeological fieldwork programmes based on major infrastructure developments offer unique challenges and opportunities for researchers. Often comprising multiple sites of a wide range of periods and including often multi-scalar interventions ranging from small watching briefs to large-scale programmes of remote sensing, the sheer scale of such projects can result in the collation of an impressive array of data. This session explores how such substantial research dividends can best be exploited; reviewing past projects, capturing feedback from current work and looking forward to major new initiatives, it aims to address how research can best be embedded in infrastructure projects at all stages ranging from initial project planning, through execution and into the post-excavation and dissemination stage.

Heathrow Terminal 5: a fitting legacy? Gill Hey, Oxford Archaeology

In 1998 Oxford Archaeology and Wessex Archaeology embarked on Britain’s first archaeological joint venture – Framework – in order to provide heritage services for British Airports Authority, principally Heathrow Terminal 5. This was no ordinary project. Encouraged by the consultants, Gill Andrews and John Barrett, and supported by BAA, who had a strong ethos of investing in upfront development but expecting continuous improvement from the contractor, an innovative excavation strategy was designed. A relational database was created to work with GIS mapping and input was provided by specialists as fieldwork progressed, enabling decisions to be made on site about what should be excavated and what could be left. Starting with the overall site plan, and answering overarching questions of landscape utilisation and site chronology, the work gradually focused down onto the most important and/or detailed elements (landscape generic to landscape specific), and the driver was answering research questions about the site and its context. The approach was not only empowering and rewarding for staff but was also very cost-effective.
Since that time, both organisations have gone on to undertake hybrid versions of Framework, together and separately, but rigid briefs and time and cost constraints have slowly chipped away at our ability to undertake the approach and our resolve to champion it. On my darkest days, I worry that the legacy of this project is in serious danger of being lost and its positive features forgotten. My talk will look at why this is, and what lessons we can learn in order to grasp future opportunities to change the way in which we undertake fieldwork – to maximise its research potential and to deliver better value for the public.

From Dere Street to the A1(M): what have we learnt from over 20 years of excavation and research undertaken through the upgrade of the A1 in Yorkshire? Neil Redfern, Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments & Development Management Team Manager Yorkshire, Historic England

This paper sets out to share my experience of working on several stages of major road improvement to upgrade the A1 in
Yorkshire, between 2002 and 2017. For the majority of its alignment the modern A1 follows the line of Roman Dere Street, the
archaeologically feature-rich Southern Magnesian Limestone ridge and the post-medieval Great North Road. How was the
research potential for this landscape factored into strategic planning of the road upgrade and what if any lessons have we learnt
in this time? The paper will focus on whether archaeological interventions have been a success, and for whom, and what the
lasting public benefits for the historic environment and the communities most affected have been.

Infrastructure and research: a marine perspective Dan Atkinson and Andrew Bicket, Wessex Archaeology

The increasing pressure on the environment of large-scale infrastructure development in the UK in recent years has had a profound effect on the historic environment. For these effects to be identified and successfully mitigated requires a real understanding of how we look at the protection and enhancement of the archaeology through the legislative and planning framework, and also through the considered inclusion of defined research objectives – both at the national and regional level. This situation is perhaps more easily recognised in onshore infrastructure development and the interaction with the terrestrial historic environment. However, this also applies equally to the marine historic environment, where in recent years the boom in development – offshore wind, marine renewables, energy transmission, sub-sea cables, and port and harbour development – has seen the recognition of the need for equally robust consideration of this less visible cultural heritage resource. This paper explores the current status with regard to the challenging balancing act between discharging conditions placed on marine developers as part of the planning consenting process, and how this process might be augmented and enhanced with the inclusion of considered research questions.

HERDS: delivering a research-focused strategy for HS2 John Halsted and Emma Hopla, HS2 Ltd

Phase One of HS2 will represent the largest programme of historic environment works ever undertaken in the UK. The linear route from London to Birmingham and into Staffordshire will extend across a distance of approximately 230km and across the grain of the landscape of southern and central England through varying geologies, topographies and regions. An innovative approach is, therefore, required to deliver high-value knowledge and maximise public benefit, from a defined budget and within a defined timeframe. The Historic Environment Research and Delivery Strategy (HERDS) has been designed to provide a research focus for archaeological and heritage works, alongside involving communities and developing sector skills. The approach taken has been to develop a series of key research themes and specific objectives. These objectives have been defined following an extensive resource assessment and consultations with the academic community, local authority stakeholders, the heritage industry and Historic England.
All historic environment works will be designed to contribute to these specific objectives, which are defined at location-specific, region-focused and scheme-wide scales. Collaboration will be required between HS2 Ltd and historic environment contractors across the route and mechanisms will be put in place, including a dedicated online GIS, web portal and round table meetings, to facilitate the management and discussion of ongoing works, interim results and comparative data. This paper will discuss the HERDS approach, provide examples of specific research objectives and discuss the mechanisms for the implementation of the archaeology and heritage programme for Phase One of HS2.

The Batinah Expressway (packages 3 and 4) excavations Presentation by Ben Saunders

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