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To The National Association of Local Councils
109 Great Russell Street
Rescue – The British Archaeological Trust
The Council for British Archaeology
The National Council for Metal Detecting
The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers
The All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group/ The archaeology forum


Dear Sirs,

We should be grateful if you would forward this message to each of your 10,000 members.

They will all have received many requests over the years for “metal detecting permission” (and we understand a more concerted application on behalf of detectorists may now be being considered). Mostly permission is withheld, for a variety of individual reasons, although some Councils agree to it albeit under specific conditions on the grounds that Central Government considers it reasonable for them to do so.

However, we hope your Members will accept that although a variety of non-damaging recreational uses of public land ought to be permitted, anything found within publicly owned land belongs to the public authority and it is not at liberty to allow private individuals to claim it as their own. That principle also applies, for instance, to harvesting flowers and the removal of fish, birds and mammals. In the case of archaeological artefacts the principle is of particular importance since objects may not only have monetary value but also historical value.

Accordingly, we should like to offer two suggestions under which permission for metal detecting on public land could be considered:

The Deefholts-Billingshurst method. See Item 064/09 of the Deerhurst Parish Council, Gloucestershire, in 2009 []
“Mr Ray Deefholts wished to speak about agenda item 9 on metal detecting. Mr Deefholts stated that he is a member of the Federation of Independent Detectorists and is seeking permission from the Council for himself and two friends to use metal detectors on Parish Council land. Smaller items found will remain in the possession of the land owner i.e. the Parish Council, but Horsham Museum may be interested in these finds. Other finds may fall under the Treasure Act….” (In other words, nothing found during metal detecting would be claimed by Mr Deefholts or his two companions).

Gleaning. In 2015 the following poster was displayed on the parish council noticeboard in Wichenford, Worcestershire. It was aimed at persuading the 200 residents to do some “gleaning” – the 18th century right of cottagers to gather left-over produce from the local fields so it can be given to needy people. It would seem to us that permission to metal detect on public land could validly be given as permission to “glean” on behalf of the needy and/or the local museum.

In my view those are the only two means by which the interests of the wider public can be protected but I am happy to be corrected.

Kind regards,
Nigel Swift
The Heritage Journal




November 2017

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