Human ancestors have been modifying the landscape in which we live since the early Palaeolithic period, perhaps as long as 900,000 years ago. Surrey’s archaeology is rich and diverse, with the oldest recorded finds being tools dating from the lower Palaeolithic Acheulean period. Archaeological remains are a finite resource, which means once destroyed they cannot be replaced. Archaeology is often our only means of discovering how ordinary men and women lived, worked and died in the past.
Archaeological remains face many threats in both towns and the countryside. Remains are particularly vulnerable to destruction from urban development, road and pipeline construction and mineral extraction. Forestry and agriculture can also damage archaeological deposits substantially. However, the protection of remains must be balanced with the need for economic growth and development.
Provision for the management of archaeological sites and features within the planning process is achieved via the National Planning Policy Framework, published in 2012. The NPPF supersedes previous Government Policy on the management of change to the Historic Environment in England (replacing Planning Policy Statement 5: Archaeology and Planning, Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment (PPG15) and Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Archaeology and Planning (PPG16)). National and Local Development Plans also contain policies relating to archaeology and development. Some sites have statutory protection as Scheduled Monuments, which are protected by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act (1979). There are about 190 Scheduled Monuments in Surrey.