Dorset Council owns land on behalf of and for the benefit of the people of Dorset, and we are committed to protecting and enhancing the county’s environment. We aim to: 

  • develop and apply best practice as a responsible landowner and steward of Dorset’s cultural heritage and historic environment 
  • show that people who do archaeological fieldwork for recreation can achieve high standards and produce quality results
  • include all types of archaeological fieldwork in one policy and apply the same standards to all activities  

Our policy on archaeological fieldwork on Dorset Council land

Archaeological fieldwork and metal detecting is not permitted on land owned or managed by Dorset Council unless it is part of a part of an approved programme of archaeological investigation/research.  

This policy applies to:

  • historic building recording and archaeological fieldwork by individuals
  • special interest groups such as metal detecting clubs
  • local history and archaeological societies
  • students
  • academic researchers

This policy does not apply to research or fieldwork by archaeological buildings specialists or archaeological contractors undertaken as part of the planning process or commissioned by Dorset Council as landowner. 

We want to make sure that: 

  • the wishes and interests of our tenants are respected
  • tenants and staff are equipped to deal with requests for access
  • important archaeological and natural environment sites are protected
  • fieldwork is done legally, to a good standard, and with consideration to other people and the environment
  • significant archaeological objects are made available to the people of Dorset and for future research (this usually means deposition in a museum)
  • high quality information is gathered about the historic environment of land owned by Dorset Council, to feed into its future management


We will not give 'blanket' permission to carry out archaeological fieldwork on Dorset Council land.


  • is specific to a named individual and to the farm, and for a finite period 
  • will be for a specified period of up to one year, after which permission may be renewed
  • may be withdrawn at any time if conditions are not being met
  • may be withdrawn at any time at the request of the farm tenant or site manager


The conditions of granted permission are:

  • that all finds remain the property of Dorset Council
  • that the applicant is expected to waive entitlement to any reward under the Treasure Act 1996 (and subsequent revisions)
  • that the costs consequent upon the activity for which permission is granted will not be borne by Dorset Council. These include the costs of care and storage of finds, publication of results, archive deposition, and additional archaeological support necessitated by discovery of complex finds such as hoards or human remains
  • that the condition of all the land or property must be reinstated and the costs of making good any damage or paying compensation to cover these costs must be borne by those undertaking the activity and will not be borne by Dorset Council

Other conditions appropriate to the nature of the activity may be applied to permissions.  

Other conditions, such as a no drones fly zone and/or no dogs or animals allowed on site, may be applied to permissions according to circumstances and the wishes of the tenant or site manager.  

Many of Dorset Council’s countryside sites are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Permission from Natural England will be needed for most work on these designated areas. Dorset Council will not give permission for work that involves disturbance of these areas. An exception may be made in very exceptional circumstances.  

How to apply for permission 

Fill in our expression of interest form. You will be asked for information about yourself and, if you are completing the form on behalf of a group or organisation, about them. You will be asked where you want to carry out fieldwork, if you have contacted the Dorset Council farm tenant or site manager, and if they have given permission. You will also be asked to describe the fieldwork you want to do.  

Completing the expression of interest form does not commit you to anything at this stage and does not mean that you will be given permission. We will carry out checks, consider the quality and value to us of the work that you are proposing, and the farm tenant or site manager will be given an opportunity to change their mind. We may come back to you for more information.  

At a later stage in the application process applicants will be asked for the names of at least one referee. We may ask for two referees, for example if the proposed work covers a large area or involves a lot of disturbance, or if you haven’t been active in Dorset before.  

You will also be asked to submit a research plan appropriate to the activity for which permission is being requested. The level of detail required will vary according to the complexity of that activity.   

In this plan, you must:  

  • demonstrate awareness of relevant legislation such as the Treasure Act 1996 and Scheduled Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979
  • undertake all normal due diligence in relation to statutory designations such as Scheduled Monuments and Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • demonstrate a good track record of work appropriate to the activity for which permission is being requested. For example, in the case of metal detecting, frequent and detailed reporting finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
  • state arrangements for care and storage of any finds recovered, and specialist technical support such as finds identification, reporting and illustration
  • state plans for reporting and publication of the results of the project, and archive deposition, as appropriate
  • state plans for dealing with complex discoveries such as in situ hoards or human remains, including what arrangements have been made for emergency archaeological support
  • demonstrate awareness of health and safety measures appropriate to the activity for which permission is being requested, including safeguarding, as necessary
  • consider the practical aspects of your use of the site, including matters such as access, car parking, times of use, day-to-day reporting to the tenant and/or site manager and to Dorset Council’s Historic Environment Record Team

Standards and guidance

This is work in progress. We'd like to know if we are striking the right tone and level of detail, so please let us have your comments.

Treasure Act 

Background research

Expression of interest form

Complete this form to start the process of applying for permission to carry out archaeological fieldwork on Dorset Council land

Senior Archaeologist, Promotion and Liaison

Name: Claire Pinder
Tel: 01305 224921
Full contact details