There are five areas designated as areas of archaeological importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (1): the historic city centres of Canterbury, Chester, Exeter, Hereford and York.
Designation has the general effect of helping to prevent important archaeological sites from being damaged or destroyed without at least allowing for some investigation and recording first. Critically, the regime applies to all works that disturb the ground and so allows for some investigation of sites proposed to be dug for utility services, such as water and gas pipes, which otherwise do not need planning permission.
The designation does not mean a separate consent is required nor does it, of itself, make planning permission more or less likely to be given.
The unauthorised use of a metal detector in archaeological areas is an offence (2).
There are no plans to designate any other areas in England.
Also of interest...
Planning Permission in relation to listed buildings, conservation areas and other historic places.
Article 4 Directions
The development plan comprises the local planning authority's local development plan and the neighbourhood development plan, if there is one.
What Historic Environment Records are and their use in planning and developments.