Fortunately, the days of salvaging sites from the jaws of mechanical diggers are over, and archaeology today is firmly embedded within the planning process. Most county or regional planning authorities now have a team of archaeologists who are responsible for maintaining a record of all archaeology within their designated area.
The Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs) mentioned above are invaluable research tools but are primarily used to inform planning decisions. The process by which an archaeological investigation is initiated will usually start with a planning application or preliminary enquiry by developers to the planning department.
'... archaeological evaluation is intended to discover the potential of an area ...'
The archaeological team within the planning department will then consult their SMR which, within the application area, may carry records of known site or previous discoveries.
However, even if nothing is recorded, a Planning Policy Guideline allows for the investigation of threatened areas before a decision is made about granting planning permission. Such archaeological evaluation is intended to discover the potential of an area so that an informed decision can be made about its future.