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1.2 Cultural resource management and the palaeochannel record

The term cultural resource management is used to denote the legal and custodial processes by which the archaeological and historic record is balanced against the pressures of development and other interests within the modern state. Since 1990 the primary responsibility for cultural resource management in the UK has devolved upon local authorities, typically at county council level. In order to respond to planning applications, archaeological officers within local authorities therefore require detailed information relating to the archaeological potential of any given area. This has been articulated through local Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs), databases of known archaeological sites increasingly existing in digital (GIS) formats.

Historically, the compilation of SMR records has been essentially a reactive process, incorporating known sites, find-spots and excavations. However, larger scale projects such as the National Mapping Programme, initiated by English Heritage in the 1980s to map archaeological cropmarks in major gravel-terrace river valleys, have introduced a prospective element, with hitherto unknown and unexcavated cropmark complexes brought within the management framework.

While the archaeological coverage of SMRs is therefore broad, there has been little focus on the palaeoenvironmental record, despite its proven archaeological value, and no previous attempt at large-scale prospection to bring the palaeochannel resource within the cultural resource management framework.


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