Crown Estate Regulates Seabed Archaeological Discoveries

The Crown Estate, manager of the UK seabed, has launched a Protocol for archaeological discoveries that have been uncovered on the seabed through offshore renewables activity.

Crown Estate Regulates Seabed Archaeological Discoveries

The offshore renewables ‘Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries’, initially implemented in draft form by Wessex Archaeology in 2010, has already helped to protect over 400 discoveries, such as peat and wood, that offer insight into the past environment of the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea, and evidence of rich maritime heritage including an historic cannon investigated in 2012.

Since then, the 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 to reflect the current experience for offshore renewables, as more projects move into construction and operation. The final Protocol builds upon the positive experience of the marine aggregates industry in implementing a process which has led to over 1,000 individual finds being investigated since 2005.

Huub den Rooijen, Head of Offshore Wind at The Crown Estate said: “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 renewable projects through the development process, such as gaining planning consent, as well as helping secure the nation’s heritage.”

Euan McNeill, Director of Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team said: “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. This Protocol provides a ‘safety net’ that will support project teams throughout the offshore development process and promotes best practice across the industry.”

Gareth Lewis, Head of Offshore Development at Forewind, developer of the Dogger Bank Zone, said: “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. For example, peat and wood was discovered on the seafloor during survey work on the zone and its reporting and analysis has the potential to help archaeologists improve the understanding of Ice Age Britain.”

The Protocol is intended to support and complement the existing statutory and legal requirements for archaeological discoveries in the marine environment. It is likely to be particularly helpful when construction activities are diffuse or in areas of apparently low potential. The publication describes clear benefits to the industry in using the Protocol for potential cost savings by ensuring compliance with their sites’ marine licence conditions as well as demonstrating corporate social responsibility.

The Protocol’s launch will be accompanied by an Awareness Programme, taking into account differing workplace circumstances to promote it more effectively across the industry. This will include training talks and a bi-annual newsletter in addition to dedicated web pages hosted by Wessex Archaeology.

The offshore renewables ‘Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries’ complements The Crown Estate’s broader role in the renewables sector as it works to support the development the offshore wind sector in the UK, with up to a £100 million of investment. This has been targeted at a range of initiatives and research designed to accelerate development and attract investors, such as the Marine Data Exchange, which provides unique access to survey data and reports collated during the planning, building and operating of offshore renewable energy projects.

Press Release, September 05, 2014; Image: thecrownestate