How to make a Historic Environment Record enquiry
Online Historic Environment Record (HER)
A simplified version of the Dorset Historic Environment Record is available through the Heritage Gatewaywebsite, where selected data is uploaded at intervals. This is suitable for general interest and basic research, and will be of interest to local residents, schools, community groups and visitors.
A direct HER enquiry should be made for complex research, and for commercial enquiries for development, planning or land management purposes.
The enquiry process
If you are thinking of making an HER enquiry please read our guidance for HER users first.
Step 1: Complete our online enquiry form
As part of completing the form, you will be asked to agree to our conditions for provision of HER information, and information about yourself and your enquiry. This is because:
- Dorset Council is committed to the protection, conservation and enhancement of the county's historic environment. We need to ensure that information from the HER is used responsibly and legally. Putting enquiries into context helps us to spot those occasions when we might need to give advice or steer someone in another direction
- people don't always ask us the right questions! Knowing a little about why you are asking and what you want it for will enable us to decide what and how much information to provide, and how best to package it to meet your requirements
- we want to increase understanding, access to and enjoyment of the historic environment. Knowing a little more about the people and organisations that currently use the HER helps us to plan improvements and extend use of the record to a wider audience
Please be specific about your requirements and the purpose of your enquiry. This will help us decide how best to respond. For example, someone working on a Statement of Heritage Significance will need a different type of information, presented in a different way, from a student working on a dissertation. It is particularly important that you should tell us if you are thinking of making a planning application. If you are interested in a particular area, try to let us have a clearly-marked map or a grid reference and some indication of the size of your area of interest.
The more information you give us at this stage, the easier it is for us to start working on your enquiry.
You will get an email acknowledgement which includes a reference number which looks like this: HERE1234567.
Step 2: We assess your enquiry
If we don't have enough information to accept your enquiry, we will contact you.
If we have enough information to accept the enquiry, we will give you our anticipated response time, and tell you if there are any charges. Charges are normally waived for non-commercial enquiries, except where searches require extensive work. The costs of paper, printing and other incidental expenses may be charged to all users. You will be told about any charges before your enquiry is processed. Read more about our charging policy and scale of charges.
We make every effort to deal with enquiries quickly but we are a small team and need to balance the calls upon our time. Requests for information are dealt with in the order in which they are received. We don't offer a 'fast track' service but please let us know if you have a deadline, and we'll do our best to meet it.
Permission to use the HER may be refused or limited in certain circumstances. It is usually possible to deal with our concerns by providing more information or submitting a more focused enquiry. In practice, we hardly ever refuse enquiries. Read more about when we might refuse an enquiry or limit the information provided.
Depending on the nature of the enquiry, you may also be asked to sign a licence agreement for re-use of the HER data provided to you.
Step 3: Licence agreement
Sometimes we ask enquirers to sign a licence for re-use of HER data. This is usually re-use of data for commercial purposes or when large amounts of data are being supplied in a digital format. The licence agreement allows use of the data for a set period which is usually six months.
Step 4: Track the progress of your enquiry
Use your HER enquiry reference number (for example HERE1234567) to track your enquiry HER enquiry tracker.
Step 5: Our response
Most enquiries are dealt with by email. We will tell you if we think you might find it useful to visit the HER.
We aim to respond to straightforward HER search requests within 10 working days and to all requests within 20 working days. We aim to acknowledge emails within 2 working days, to provide a full response to emails and written communications within 10 working days. We aim to respond to any voicemail message left with us within one working day.
The preferred method for providing data is electronically by email. Where paper reports are required a charge will be made for printing.
Dorset Council uses MapInfo for its GIS, so mapping can be provided in this format or as a pdf of the HER map, if requested. Please bear in mind, however, that overlapping may obscure some data when the map is packaged as a pdf.
Starting your enquiry
Enquirers are encouraged to use our online enquiry form which prompts users to give us the information we need to accept and respond quickly to enquiries.
Please feel free to contact the HER to discuss your requirements before submitting an enquiry. (contact details at the bottom of this page).
Read more about enquiry types and formats.
Visiting the Historic Environment Record
The Dorset Historic Environment Record is situated at County Hall in Dorchester, which is open to the public 8.40am to 5.20pm (Monday to Thursday) and 8.40am to 4pm (Friday) and closed on Saturday and Sunday, on bank holidays, Christmas and New Year's Day. Personal visits to the Historic Environment Record can be made during these hours by appointment.
Visitors are asked to book an appointment as space is limited, and we have other commitments; without an appointment you may be disappointed. It may be possible to visit the HER outside office hours or on Saturday morning, by arrangement.
A work space is available for HER users. Wheelchair access is possible via a lift. Resources in the HER space include a limited number of journals, monographs and other publications, and copies of unpublished reports (called 'grey literature' in our jargon), aerial photographs, and a variety of material relating to designated heritage assets. A photocopier is available. Kitchen and cafeteria facilities may be used by HER visitors.
You will be invited to complete a user satisfaction survey. It is important that we know if we could be doing something differently and better. Bear in mind that there isn't much we can do about the quality of information gathered from many different sources, but we are always ready to re-consider how we package and interpret it for your use, and the process of making an HER enquiry.
If you have any complaint about the service you (or someone acting on your behalf) can make a complaint.