Metal detecting on council land

You must not use a metal detector on land owned, managed or tenanted by Cheshire East Council.

We can make an exception to permit the use of metal detectors where a metal detecting survey is part of an approved programme of archaeological investigation.

  • Our Property Services team can tell you if we own the land you're interested in – they may charge for this service.

To use a metal detector on private land you must obtain permission from the land owner. 

  • Land Registry can tell you who owns land – they charge a fee for this service. 

Portable Antiquities scheme

You should report all archaeological objects you find in Cheshire to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Working to protect our historic environment

We work with The Archaeology Planning Advisory Service (APAS), part of the Specialist Advisory Service. They give archaeological advice to all services in Cheshire East Council and advise on the appropriate management of the authority’s heritage assets.

APAS  recognises the valuable contribution made by metal detecting in locating previously unknown sites and as a survey technique. They accept that metal detecting may be used as part of a structured programme of archaeological research.

They advise metal detecting as part of archaeological mitigation programmes where appropriate, as part of the planning process.  APAS work closely with the national Portable Antiquities Scheme, to ensure that all portable artefacts are properly recorded.

English Heritage advises that metal detecting should only:

  • usually be carried out on arable land which has already been disturbed
  • be used to recover material within the depth of ploughing and not from undisturbed contexts

It is inadvisable to use a metal detector on undisturbed land and permanent pasture where no imminent threat of destruction is present. Archaeological features may lie close to the surface and could be damaged by digging to recover detected objects.

Metal detecting can result in:

  • removal of artefacts from their contexts with serious loss of information 
  • damage to related archaeological deposits
  • partial recovery of assemblages which often neglects non-metal finds, again with a loss of information
  • unreported discoveries leading to an accumulated loss of knowledge

You need the written consent of Natural England to use a metal detector on land that is in an Environmental Land Management scheme.  This includes  Countryside Stewardship Entry Level, Organic Entry Level and Higher Level Stewardship Schemes.

Land managed by Cheshire Farms and all publicly owned open space in our urban and country parks is entered into these schemes. Byelaws limit certain activities in country parks and public parks.

You need a license from English Heritage to use a metal detector on a Scheduled Monument or in the Chester Area of Archaeological Importance

Designated sites (in addition to Scheduled Monuments) include sites on English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest, such as Queens Park, and non designated sites are included in the Cheshire Historic Environment Record (maintained by APAS).

We recommend that detecting is not carried out on known archaeological sites, whether designated or undesignated.

Page last reviewed: 01 April 2022