Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Archaeology on a construction site

Archaeological finds on construction sites

What you must do

There may be conditions attached to the planning consent for your development that relate to archaeology. If you are a site owner or occupier, check your planning consent.

If you make archaeological discoveries

In Northern Ireland any archaeological finds must be reported within 14 days to either the:

  • Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) Built Heritage Division
  • Ulster Museum
  • the Police

You will also need to give details of where and how the object was found.

NIEA: Built Heritage Division

In Scotland if you uncover archaeological features, you must stop work and contact the local planning authority and local council archaeologist immediately.

Association of Local Government Archaeological Services (ALGAO)

If you find human skeletal remains or evidence of a burial ground, stop work in that area. The main contractor or person in charge of the site should contact the Police immediately. The police will contact the Coroner or in Scotland, the Procurator Fiscal and the local council archaeologist if required.

Archaeological watching brief

In Northern Ireland, the archaeologist directing archaeological works on your behalf must work to a programme agreed under the planning conditions and licensed under the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (NI) Order 1995.

NIEA: Protecting Historic Monuments & Buildings, Archaeological Objects & Wrecks

In Scotland if your working area is subject to an archaeological watching brief you must liaise and cooperate with the archaeological contractor who is to oversee your works.

Good practice

Before you start work, check if your site contains protected archaeology or listed buildings. You can do this by contacting:

  • the Northern Ireland Environment Agency – Built Heritage Division.
  • the local council archaeologist in Scotland

In Scotland, you can find out if a building is listed or is a Scheduled Ancient monument by using Pastmap.


If you are working as a sub-contractor, check with the client or main contractor if there are archaeologically sensitive areas on your site that will need to be excavated before you start work or if there are areas of the site that you must not enter.

Identify listed buildings in the area surrounding your works. Building foundations can be susceptible to vibration or ground settlement caused by adjacent deep excavations, tunnelling, piling or heavy traffic movements.

SEE ALSO: Site investigation and site sampling

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