Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979

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Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979
Long title An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to ancient monuments; to make provision for the investigation, preservation and recording of matters of archaeological or historical interest and (in connection therewith) for the regulation of operations or activities affecting such matters; to provide for the recovery of grants under section 10 of the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act 1972 or under section 4 of the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 in certain circumstances; and to provide for grants by the Secretary of State to the Architectural Heritage Fund.
Chapter 1979 c.46
Territorial extent England and Wales & Scotland (expecting Northern Ireland).
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 or AMAAA was a law passed by the British government, the latest in a series of Ancient Monument Acts legislating to protect the archaeological heritage of Great Britain.[1] Northern Ireland has its own legislation.

Section 61(12) defines sites that warrant protection due to their being of national importance as 'ancient monuments'. These can be either Scheduled Ancient Monuments or "any other monument which in the opinion of the Secretary of State is of public interest by reason of the historic, architectural, traditional, artistic or archaeological interest attaching to it".

A monument is defined as:

any building, structure or work above or below the surface of the land, any cave or excavation; any site comprising the remains of any such building, structure or work or any cave or excavation; and any site comprising or comprising the remains of any vehicle, vessel or aircraft or other movable structure or part thereof... (Section 61 (7)).

Damage to an ancient monument is a criminal offence and any works taking place within one require Scheduled Monument Consent from the Secretary of State.

The Act also provides for taking monuments into the care of the Secretary of State – the concept of 'guardianship' where a monument remains in private ownership but the monument is cared for and (usually) opened to the public by the relevant national heritage body.

The Act (in Part II) also introduced the concept of Areas of Archaeological Importance, city centres of historic significance which receive limited further protection by forcing developers to permit archaeological access prior to building work starting. As of 2004 only five city centres, all in England, have been designated AAIs (Canterbury, Chester, Exeter, Hereford and York). Part II of the Act was never commenced in Scotland.

As the provisions in AAIs are limited compared with the requirements that can be made of developers through PPG 16, AAIs have fallen out of use.

The law is administered in England by English Heritage and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, in Scotland by Historic Scotland and in Wales by Cadw.

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