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Archaeology and the planning process

Charges for parts of the archaeology service - click here for more information 

Colchester enjoys a significantly rich and diverse archaeological heritage which reflects the town's historical importance over more than two thousand years. It is particularly outstanding in national and international terms for the Late Iron Age and Roman periods.

To a lesser degree this is also true for the Middle Ages and from time to time in relation to specific historical events that have left their mark, like the Civil War siege. In terms of regional significance, Colchester's archaeological heritage occupies a position of almost completely unparalleled pre-eminence for the period of the last two millennia.

To read how we aim to protect our wonderful heritage please look at our advice document, pdf icon Archaeology and the Planning Process [65kb] which will be of particular interest if you are thinking about a development proposal and why you should get in touch with us sooner rather than later!

Apply For Archaeology Planning Advice - This online form includes the provision to make appropriate payment with a credit or debit card only. Please ensure you have the means of payment to hand when submitting your application.

Colchester Historic Environment Record 

The Colchester Historic Environment Record (HER), incorporating the Urban Archaeological Database (UAD), is the definitive database of all known archaeological sites and historic buildings in the Borough.  The HER contains a wide range of information about the nature and location of archaeological sites, find spots, monuments and buildings of architectural and historic interest in the town from the Palaeolithic to the present.

The HER is used to identify and assess sites at risk of damage by new development. It is also used for research into the history of the Borough. Complex searches, to support planning applications, will be undertaken by Colchester BC's Archaeological Advisor.  HER search requests can be made by requesting archaeology planning advice.  Colchester BC aims to respond to HER search requests within 10 working days.


Apply for a HER Search

For personal research, a copy of the Colchester HER is available online via the Heritage Gateway.  Please note that the data on this website provides a summary of the information and is not suitable for planning purposes.

The development of the town, based on the HER, has been discussed in a recent book, Colchester Fortress of a War God: An Archaeological Assessment, by Adrian Gascoyne and David Radford (edited by Philip Wise) and published by Oxbow Books (2013).

In addition to the HER for the town, the Council also maintains the inventory of all known archaeological sites and historic buildings outside the town, in Colchester Borough (previously held in the Essex HER).

Finds Recording - the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Large numbers of objects, such as coins, fragments of pottery and flint tools, are found by members of the public, either accidentally or by deliberate searching on ploughed fields (most commonly in the form of metal-detecting).

Please note that metal detecting on Colchester Borough Council owned / tenanted land is not permitted.  Any proposal to undertake metal detecting on Colchester Borough Council land will only be considered where detecting is part of an appropriate programme of research and persons wishing to carry out such research will need to apply for and obtain a permit in order to use a metal detector. See the pdf icon Metal Detecting Policy on Colchester Borough Council Land [29kb] for further information and for an application form for a permit to use a metal detector on land.  

Experts in Colchester & Ipswich Museum Service will identify and record objects found by members of the public.  Descriptions and illustrations of the objects are added to the Portable Antiquities Scheme Database.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is funded by the Department for Culture Media and Sport and administered by the British Museum.