Essex County Council is proposing to transfer the services of its Field Archaeology Unit (FAU) to the University College London (UCL), in a move that that aims to ensure the long-term commercial viability of the service.
A final decision will be taken by Essex County Council’s Cabinet on 27 November 2012. The proposed contract would see the FAU become part of the wider provision of the Applied Archaeology services offered by UCL.
The FAU is a small specialist team of experienced and highly regarded field archaeologists, providing a commercial archaeological service to private and public sector clients throughout Essex and neighbouring counties.
The FAU was established in the early 1990s when changes to the planning system required separation of provision of local authority historic environment advice from the delivery of archaeological fieldwork. The initial aims of setting up the FAU as an Essex County Council provision was to ensure a high standard of archaeological investigations in Essex.
Increased competition and the recent slump in the construction industry led to a downturn in work for the Field Archaeology Unit. The proposed transfer of services to UCL will ensure the long term commercial viability of the service, providing an effective commercial response to the demands of planning-related archaeology in Essex.
The proposed transfer of services includes current FAU employees, ensures that there is continued and sustainable investment in local archaeological skills and the organisation’s capabilities to help safeguard the historic environment in Essex.
County Councillor, Jeremy Lucas Cabinet Member for Customer Service, Environment and Culture said: “Due to challenging market conditions it is no longer commercially viable for ECC to continue to run the FAU. However we recognise what a hugely valuable service this highly skilled team provides in helping to preserve the historic environment of Essex.
“UCL is one of the world’s leading universities for Applied Archaeology with a long-standing research interest in the archaeology of southern Britain – including active research and teaching projects in Essex.
“I welcome the proposed transfer of the FAU to UCL to advance existing expertise and the high standards that the research team provides to its clients.”
Dr Dominic Perring, the Director of the Centre for Applied Archaeology at UCL, said: “We would be delighted to take forward the important work of the Essex Field Archaeology Unit. Over the years the FAU has made many exciting discoveries whilst helping local developers to protect and preserve the historic environment. We intend to continue this good work, whilst investing in new research skills.”
“By merging the FAU team with our own professional archaeologists in Archaeology South-East, we can further strengthen one of the UK’s best-equipped centres for archaeological study. This allows us to work quickly and effectively in making sure that historic sites and remains can be enjoyed by all, without adversely affecting much-needed investment in new development and housing.”