At present, the principle form of heritage designation used at sea in English waters is the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. As its title implies, this act can only be used to designate the remains of wrecks, including their former contents such as cargo. The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 is used to designate an area within which a wreck lies; various activities within the designated area are restricted and can only take place under the authority of a licence. Designation can apply to the limit of the Territorial Sea (12 nautical miles; about 22 km) and in all tidal waters, including intertidal areas and estuarine waters that may be far upstream but still within the tidal limit.
The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 is used in Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England, but it has been superseded in Scotland by the designation of Historic Marine Protected Areas (HMPAs) under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. HMPAs can be used to designate a very wide range of heritage assets, whilst in England recourse must be had to scheduling at sea if the heritage asset in need of protection is not a wreck.
In England, designation and licencing under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, administered on behalf of DCMS by Historic England.
A further form of designation that affects heritage assets is provided by the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. This act can be used to protect wrecks by designating an area, or by adding the name of the wreck to a list - even if the location of the wreck is not known. Air crash sites are automatically protected under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 also requires that a licence be obtained before excavating any place in search of military remains.
Scotland is subject to separate Treasure Trove law which differs significantly from that obtaining in England and Wales. It encompasses two categories of material, Treasure Trove (sensu stricto) which is restricted to precious items and associated objects which have been concealed; and bona vacantia which covers all objects (made of any material) whose original owner or rightful heir cannot be traced, irrespective of the circumstances of deposition. All such finds must be reported to the Crown Office, although if the Crown exercises its rights to ownership and claims an object, the finder is normally eligible for a reward equivalent to its market value. Claimed finds are allocated to an appropriate museum. Unclaimed finds are returned to the finder.
Portable heritage in tidal waters counts as 'wreck' if it has come from a ship and is subject to the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. Anybody who finds 'wreck' or brings it within UK territorial waters must notify the Receiver of Wreck, who will try to establish the original owner. The finder is entitled to a salvage award. If no legitimate owner makes a claim within a year then generally the wreck becomes the property of the Crown, though in practice the find will often be granted to the finder in place of a salvage award. Although the Treasure Act 1996 also applies to the foreshore above low water, if an item is 'wreck' then it is not 'treasure'. Other than finds that fall within the definition of 'treasure' (above low water) and 'wreck', there is no general provision for portable heritage found in tidal waters. However, a number of protocols are in place to encourage the reporting of all types of archaeological material discovered at sea by the marine aggregate industry and the offshore renewables sector.
In Wales the Protection of historical assets in Wales: a consultation paper (National Assembly for Wales: Welsh Assembly Government 2003) and further consultations have resulted in the introduction of the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016.
Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979: [Applies to UK (although Part II pertaining to archaeological areas was never introduced in Wales or Scotland)]. Consolidates earlier legislation on the definition and protection of scheduled monuments and authorisation of works affecting scheduled monuments. Also provides for rescue excavation in designated areas of archaeological importance.
Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990: (England and Wales) Covers the designation of listed buildings and conservation areas and the authorisation of works by local planning authorities.
Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016 augments the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and gives Welsh Ministers certain additional powers in relation to Scheduled Monuments and Listed Buildings. It also places a statutory duty on Welsh Ministers to maintain Welsh HERs.
Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Scotland Act 1997: (Scotland) Covers the designation of buildings of special architectural or historic interest ‘with a view to the guidance of planning authorities in the performance of their functions under this Act'.
Protection of Military Remains Act 1986: (UK) Enables the designation and licensing of vessels lost in military service. Also requires a licence to be obtained to disturb the remains of all crashed military aircraft, both on land and at sea.
Protection of Wrecks Act 1973: (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) Covers the designation and licensing of wrecks of historical, archaeological or artistic importance in territorial waters. Section 2 covers dangerous cargoes.
Marine (Scotland) Act 2010: (Scotland) Part 5 applies to the designation and licensing of Historic Marine Protected Areas (HMPAs).
National Heritage Act 1983, 2002: (England) The 1983 Act established the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (known as English Heritage) and delegated the functions of scheduling of ancient monuments and listing of historic buildings. The National Heritage Act 2002, took effect on 1 July 2002, and broadened the powers of English Heritage in two ways. It allowed English Heritage to become involved in underwater archaeology in English territorial water and to trade in overseas countries. These powers have now been transferred to Historic England.
Town and Country Planning Act 1990: [England and Wales] The principal instrument of town and country planning law, setting out the requirement for local authorities to prepare development plans.
Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997: (Scotland) The principal instrument of town and country planning law, setting out the requirement for local authorities to prepare development plans. Parts of the act were amended by the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006.
The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013: Legislation and guidance on procedures for dealing with planning permission applications that affect a: scheduled monument or its setting, category A listed building or its setting, garden or designed landscape, battlefield site, or World Heritage Site.
Treasure Act 1996: [England and Wales]: Replaced the common law of treasure trove and defines treasure and the reporting procedures. It introduced the voluntary recording of archaeological finds not defined as treasure. The Treasure Act 1996 Code of Practice (Revised) 2002 (England and Wales) updates the Code of Practice first issued in 1997. The Code sets out the guidelines to be followed by the Secretary of State when considering whether or not treasure should be offered to a museum or to the finder or to any other person, when determining a reward and when deciding whether to disclaim the Crown's title to treasure. It also provides guidance for finders, museums, coroners and others who are concerned with treasure.
The Act does not apply to Scotland. Under the regalia minora common law rights of the Crown in Scotland, it is the prerogative of the Crown to receive all lost and abandoned property which is not otherwise owned. There is a narrow definition of treasure trove per se, involving precious items which have lain concealed, but in practice this is overridden by and subsumed within the wider legal concept of bona vacantia (or ownerless goods). The Crown Office in Scotland has the duty, overseen by the Scottish Executive, to claim bona vacantia on behalf of the nation.
Merchant Shipping Act 1995: [UK] Applies to the reporting and ownership of wreck.
Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995: [England and Wales] Defines a site of archaeological interest as a site registered in an SMR adopted by a local authority.
Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992: Defines a site of archaeological interest as a site which has been included in a Sites and Monuments Record held by any local authority before the coming into force of this Order;
Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Order 1994: [England and Wales] Exempts buildings in use for religious purposes by specific denominations from the local authority planning process where acceptable procedures for controlling works are in place.
Ancient Monuments (Class Consents) Order 1994: [UK] and Ancient Monuments (Class Consents) (Scotland) Order 1996: Permit specific works to scheduled monuments.
Hedgerow Regulations 1997: [England and Wales] Aims to control the removal of important hedgerows through a system of prior notification. This specifically mentions hedgrows included in the local SMR.
England: Planning guidance issued by the DCLG (formerly ODPM, formerly DETR, formerly DoE)
PPG 9, 1994: (England) Guidance on nature conservation and land use planning.
PPG 12, 1992: (England) Covers the preparation of development plans by local authorities including the role of environmental assessments in plan preparation.
PPG 15, 1994: (England) Explains the role of the planning system in the protection of historic buildings, conservation areas and other elements of the historic environment.
PPG 16, 1990: (England) Advises on assessing the archaeological implications of development and early consultation with SMRs in assessing the impact of planning applications.
PPG 20, 1993: [England] Sets out policy for coastal areas and gives guidance on the Heritage Coast.
Scotland: planning guidance issued by the Scottish Government
Scottish Planning Policy 2014 (SPP): the statement of the Scottish Government’s policy on nationally important land use planning matters.
National Planning Framework 2014 (NPF): the Scottish Government’s strategy for Scotland’s long term spatial development.
Planning Advice Note 2/2011: Planning and Archaeology (PAN): provides advice to planning authorities and developers on dealing with archaeological remains.
Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement 2016: guides the operation of decision making in the Scottish planning system. It sets out how Historic Environment Scotland fulfils its regulatory and advisory roles and how it expects others to interpret and implement Scottish Planning Policy.
Wales: planning guidance issued by the Welsh Government (formerly The Welsh Office)
'Planning Policy Wales', Edition 8, January 2016: [Wales] provides the strategic policy framework for the effective preparation of local planning authorities' development plans. (Chapter 6 relates to the historic environment encompassing UDPs, Conservation Areas, development control, World Heritage Sites and historic parks and gardens). This is supplemented by 23 topic based Technical Advice Notes (Wales). Procedural guidance for the historic environment is given in Welsh Office / National Assembly for Wales circulars.
Welsh Office Circular 60/96: Planning and the Historic Environment: Archaeology: Provides advice on the handling of archaeological matters within the planning system. It supplements guidance in Planning Guidance (Wales): Planning Policy 1996 and Planning Policy Wales 2016. (This Circular is due to be replaced by TAN24 during 2016-17).
Welsh Office Circular 61/96: Planning and the Historic Environment: Historic Buildings and Conservation Areas as amended by Welsh Office Circular 1/98, Planning and the Historic Environment: Directions by the Secretary of State for Wales Sets out the latest available policy guidance which relates to the built heritage. (This Circular is due to be replaced by TAN24 during 2016-17).
Voluntary Codes of Practice
Code of Practice for Treasure Act, DCMS, 1996: (England and Wales) A voluntary programme to record archaeological objects not covered by the provisions of the Treasure Act.