Planning Case Study 7

Land north of the Park Farm Industrial Estate and the Freman College, Ermine Street, Buntingford, Hertfordshire


Planning scenario(s)

1 - Pre-determination assessment/evaluation identified significant new heritage assets - Pre-determination assessment/evaluation identified significant archaeology on the development site (i.e. the results created significant new knowledge), especially where none was previously known in the HER.
7 - Pre-commencement archaeological conditions were attached to a planning permission - Pre-commencement archaeological conditions were attached to a planning permission and were necessary in order to enable the development to be permitted.

Heritage assets affected

Non-designated heritage assets of archaeological and historic interest

Type of application & broad category

Major, residential, including care home, c.15ha

Local planning authority

Authority: East Hertfordshire District Council
References: 3/13/1375/OP

Development proposal

Full permission for the erection of 180 homes, extension to the Freman College playing fields, the creation of four new accesses onto Ermine Street and one new access onto the A10; upgrading of one access onto Ermine Street, and the provision of amenity space and associated infrastructure, and in outline with all matters reserved, a 50-60 bed care home and sheltered accommodation.

Archaeological information known about the site before the planning application was made, or before the development commenced, as appropriate

No archaeology known from the site, but is immediately adjacent to Roman Ermine Street and topographically suited to settlement

Archaeological/planning processes

A pre-determination evaluation was requested in response to the planning application. This comprised desk-based assessment, geophysical survey and trial trench evaluation.

The geophysical survey identified anomalies of archaeological origin, which were then evaluated, identifying Mesolithic to Bronze Age struck flints, early and middle Iron Age settlement, earlier Iron Age ditches, and hollow ways. One, alongside Ermine Street, is probably an earlier course of Ermine Street.

The planning application was approved with a pre-commencement condition in 2015.

Open area excavation was undertaken in two parts of the site in 2015-6 through a WSI secured by the pre-commencement condition. The excavation produced extensive and significant archaeological remains. These included Neolithic flint scatters, Bronze Age and Iron Age routes and paths through the landscape, and evidence for prolonged settlement from the early Iron Age through to the Roman period. The early Iron Age settlement comprised roundhouses with associated field systems and related features including pits, post-holes, four-post structures and burials. Late Iron Age/Roman evidence consisted of a number of Iron Age inhumation and cremation burials present along the line of Ermine Street and a series of Roman quarry pits, running parallel to Ermine Street.

Post-excavation analysis of the results of the investigations has also identified a repeated pattern of activity over an extensive time period. This consisted of the establishment of routes through the landscape with subsequent moves to block or control them during the later Bronze Age and Iron Age periods. It also confirmed the existence of later prehistoric routeways on the same alignment as Ermine Street suggesting that there may be a pre-conquest precursor to the Roman road.

Outcomes: archaeological

Pre-determination evaluation successfully identified significant archaeological potential.

A pre-commencement condition secured the post-determination archaeological mitigation that produced evidence of regional significance in respect of the origins of Ermine Street, and publication.

References and links/bibliography

  • Oxford Archaeology East 2013, Iron Age cultivation and settlement features and post-medieval boundaries at land north of Buntingford, Hertfordshire: archaeological evaluation. Unpublished report.
  • Pre-Construct Archaeology 2016, Land north of Park Farm Industrial Estate and Freman College, Ermine Street, Buntingford: archaeological excavation: Post-Excavation Assessment. Unpublished report.
  • Jones, M, A Later Bronze Age and Early Iron Age landscape at North Buntingford, Hertfordshire Archaeology and History, forthcoming.