Changes are being proposed over access arrangements to Dorset Council land for metal detectorists and amateur archaeologists, including field walkers.

A report to Dorset Council says many more have taken up the activities since the start of Covid leading to additional calls on staff time with more requests being made for permission to access council-owned land.

A previous council policy related mainly to the council-owned farms and took little account of other sites the council owns, or manages.

A metal-detectorist agreement, licensing system and protocols have been in place since the mid-1990s and will be refreshed by the proposed changes.

The new policy is expected to bring the old agreements up to date and add to it, taking into account changes in both the level of the activities and the Dorset Council’s increase land-holdings as a result of local council reorganisation which brought the new authority into being and disbanded previous district, county and borough councils.

“The update of this policy relates 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 provides clarity to Dorset Council staff, Dorset Council tenants and members of the public and clearly states that amateur archaeological fieldwork and metal detecting is not permitted on land owned or managed by Dorset Council unless permission has been granted based on an approved programme of archaeological investigation or research,” said a report to councillors this week.

Requests for written permission will have to be made through the Historic Environment Record Service based at the Dorset History Centre in Bridport Road, Dorchester and then signed off by the senior archaeologist.

The terms of the agreement will be laid out in a document which clearly states that any finds remain the property of Dorset Council.

The proposed changes will be discussed by the council’s place and resources overview committee on Thursday (28) with their findings passed to a Cabinet meeting for a final decision later in the year.