04 May 2017

The issues with Scheduled Ancient Monuments on your land

Jonathan Mackinder, trainee solicitor, takes a look at how Scheduled Ancient Monuments may affect landowners.

Scheduled Ancient Monuments may not be the first thing you think of when considering issues surrounding ownership of land. However, with over 20,000 monuments scheduled in over 200 different categories across the UK, they are a more prevalent issue for landowners than many people realise.

Scheduled monuments are man-made features of archaeological or historical importance. Sites do not have to be ancient or visible above the ground, they just have to be of national importance.

Following advice from the organisation, Historic England, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is solely responsible for deciding which monuments are listed and maintains the schedule.

How does it affect you as a land owner?

Monuments have certain legal protections from any interference which may affect them. If your land contains a Scheduled Monument, the Secretary of State has rights to impose restrictions on carrying out any works which might affect it.

‘Works affecting a monument’ encompasses a wide range of activities, including building works, agricultural use or the tipping of materials, which can be particularly problematic where a monument is concealed below the ground.

It is a criminal offence to carry out works without obtaining consent, remove any objects or use a metal detector without a licence and can lead to punishments of a fine or even imprisonment.

It is therefore essential to obtain written consent before works are undertaken. Once this is granted it lasts for 5 years. There is also no requirement on the site owner to take any positive action to preserve or maintain the monument.

All Scheduled Monuments in England are contained on the National Heritage List for England which can be found at: https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

If you are concerned about the legal issues surrounding these, please do get in touch.

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