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Scheduling FAQs

The information below should help to answer some commonly asked questions about scheduling. Further information on scheduling and all other types of designation can be found on our Designation: Frequently Asked Questions page.

Arbor Stone Circle in Derbyshire.
Arbor Stone Circle in Derbyshire.

What sort of sites are scheduled?

Scheduled monuments are not always ancient, or visible above ground. There are over 200 'classes' of monuments on the Schedule, and they range from prehistoric standing stones and burial mounds, through to the many types of medieval site - castles, monasteries, abandoned farmsteads and villages - to the more recent results of human activity, such as collieries.

Scheduling is applied only to sites of national importance, and even then only if it is the best means of protection (see 'Alternatives to Scheduling' below). Only deliberately created structures, features and remains can be scheduled. There are almost 20,000 Scheduled Monuments.

Scheduling is reserved for carefully selected sites, which create a representative sample of sites from different epochs.  

How will scheduling affect me?

If you are the owner of a scheduled monument (or are acting on behalf of the owner) and you wish to carry out works to the monument, you will need to apply for prior written permission from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. This is for works either above or below ground level. The procedure is known as Scheduled Monument Consent or SMC. 'Works' are defined by the 1979 Act as demolishing, destroying, damaging, removing, repairing, altering, adding to, flooding or tipping material onto the monument.

To avoid the possibility of damaging a monument, and therefore carrying out unlawful works, you are strongly advised to consult us while in the early planning stages of any intended works.

Certain development works to your property may require planning permission from your local authority, but obtaining such permission does not remove the need for Scheduled Monument Consent.

Belas Knapp Long Barrow in Gloucestershire.
Belas Knapp Long Barrow in Gloucestershire.

What can I do with my land if there is a Scheduled Monument on it?

Scheduling does not affect your freehold title or other legal interests in the land. If a monument is scheduled this does not give the general public any new rights of public access. A good general rule with archaeological sites is the less disturbance of the ground the better.

Scheduling does not imply that monuments are being poorly managed or that they are under threat, and it does not impose a legal obligation to undertake any additional management of the monument. If required, we may be able to help you with expert advice, often from our locally based Heritage at Risk Project Officers.

What are the criteria for national importance?

Decisions on national importance are guided by the Principles of Selection laid down by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, covering the basic characteristics of monuments. They are:

  • Period 
  • Rarity
  • Documentation/finds
  • Group value  
  • Survival/condition 
  • Fragility/vulnerability 
  • Diversity
  • Potential

See the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's publication 'Scheduled Monuments & nationally important but non-scheduled monuments' (October 2013) for further information. The vast majority of archaeology is managed at local level through the planning system.

St Catherines Oratory on the Isle of Wight.
St Catherine's Oratory on the Isle of Wight.

Are there any alternatives to scheduling?

Even nationally important sites are scheduled only if this is the best means of protecting them. Sometimes, for example in town and city centres, the best way to protect sites - from building development and road schemes - is to use the system of local authority control over planning applications. The planners can make sure that development proposals take archaeology fully into account.

Buildings and standing structures of historic interest are also generally best protected by listing. Our aim is to set the most appropriate form of protection in place for the asset.

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