How to make a Historic Environment Record enquiry
Online Historic Environment Record (HER)
A simplified version of the Dorset Historic Environment Record is available through the Heritage Gatewaywebsite to which selected data is uploaded at intervals. This is suitable for general interest and basic research, and will be of interest to local residents, schools, community groups and visitors.
A direct HER enquiry should be made for complex research, and for commercial enquiries for development, planning or land-management purposes.
Starting your enquiry
Enquirers are encouraged to use our online enquiry form which prompts users to give us the information we need to accept and respond quickly to enquiries. A paper version of the form can be sent.
HER users are asked to agree, by submitting the form, to our conditions for provision of HER information. A completed, signed enquiry form must be received before any request for information can be answered. Depending on the nature of the enquiry, you may also be asked to sign and return a licence agreement for re-use of the HER data provided to you. Read more about our conditions of use.
A charge is made for enquiries to the Dorset HER. This charge is normally waived for non-commercial enquiries, except where searches require extensive work. The costs of paper, printing and other incidental expenses may be charged to all users. Enquirers are advised of any charges before their enquiry is processed. Read more about our charging policy and scale of charges.
Please feel free to contact the HER to discuss your requirements before submitting an enquiry. (contact details at the bottom of this page).
Information about you
HER users are asked to provide information about themselves, the subject and purpose of their enquiry, the use to which the information will be put, and the names of any other bodies or individuals outside their organisation to whom it is intended to pass HER information. This is because:
- Dorset County Council is committed to the protection, conservation and enhancement of the county's historic environment. We need to ensure that information from the HER is used responsibly and legally. Putting enquiries into context helps us to spot those occasions when we might need to give advice or steer someone in another direction
- people don't always ask us the right questions! Knowing a little about why you are asking and what you want it for will enable us to decide what and how much information to provide, and how best to package it to meet your requirements
- we want to increase understanding, access to and enjoyment of the historic environment. Knowing a little more about the people and organisations that currently use the HER helps us to plan improvements and extend use of the record to a wider audience
Information about your enquiry
Please be specific about your requirements and the purpose of your enquiry. This will help us decide how best to respond. For example, someone working on a Statement of Heritage Significance will need a different type of information, presented in a different way, from a student working on a thesis. It is particularly important that you should tell us if you are thinking of making a planning application. If you are interested in a particular area, try to let us have a clearly-marked map or a grid reference and some indication of the size of your area of interest.
Permission to use the HER may be refused or limited in certain circumstances. We may refuse an enquiry when:
- the enquiry is (from our point of view) unmanageable because it covers a large area or is so unstructured that we would have to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with it
- the enquirer is unable or unwilling to provide sufficient information for the purpose of their enquiry to be understood
- we have good reason to believe that the aim of the enquiry is to identify sites in order deliberately to damage them
- we can't answer the question. For example, we often find it quite difficult to deal with enquiries asking for information on finds (i.e. artefacts) of a particular type or material because our computerised records aren't sufficiently detailed
In practice, we hardly ever refuse enquiries. It is usually possible to deal with our concerns by providing more information or submitting a more focused enquiry. Read more about when we might refuse an enquiry or limit the information provided.
The progress of your enquiry
We make every effort to deal with enquiries quickly but we are a small team and need to balance the calls upon our time.
You will be given an enquiry number and forecast response time, provided we have sufficient information to accept the enquiry. If we don't have enough information, we will contact you. Use the enquiry number to track the progress of your enquiry on our HER enquiry tracker.
Requests for information are dealt with in the order in which they are received. We don't offer a 'fast track' service but please let us know if you have a deadline, and we'll do our best to meet it.
Response times and format
Dorset County Council's customer care standards require us to acknowledge emails within 2 working days, to provide a full response to emails and written communications within 10 working days. We aim to respond to any voicemail message left with us within one working day.
The Dorset Historic Environment Record aims to respond to straightforward HER search requests within 10 working days and to all requests within 20 working days. We do not offer a 'fast track' service. Please let us know if you have a deadline, and we will do our best to meet it. You will be asked to sign and return a licence agreement to re-use the HER data sent to you. This must be received before data is sent. Read more about our conditions of use.
The preferred method for providing data is electronically by email. Where paper reports are required a charge will be made for printing.
Dorset County Council uses MapInfo for its GIS, so mapping can be provided in this format or as a pdf of the HER map, if requested. Please bear in mind, however, that overlapping may obscure some data when the map is packaged as a pdf.
Most enquiries are dealt with by email. We will tell you if we think you might find it useful to visit the HER.
Read more about enquiry types and formats.
Visiting the Historic Environment Record
The Dorset Historic Environment Record is situated at County Hall in Dorchester, which is open to the public 8.40am to 5.20pm (Monday to Thursday) and 8.40am to 4pm (Friday) and closed on Saturday and Sunday, on bank holidays, Christmas and New Year's Day. Personal visits to the Historic Environment Record can be made during these hours by appointment.
Visitors are asked to book an appointment as space is limited, and we have other commitments; without an appointment you may be disappointed. It may be possible to visit the HER outside office hours or on Saturday morning, by arrangement.
A work space is available for HER users. Wheelchair access is possible via a lift. Resources in the HER space include a limited number of journals, monographs and other publications, and copies of unpublished reports (called 'grey literature' in our jargon), aerial photographs, and a variety of material relating to designated heritage assets. A photocopier is available. Kitchen and cafeteria facilities may be used by HER visitors.
Customer satisfaction survey
You will be invited to complete a user satisfaction survey. It is important that we know if we could be doing something differently and better. Bear in mind that there isn't much we can do about the quality of information gathered from many different sources, but we are always ready to re-consider how we package and interpret it for your use, and the process of making an HER enquiry.
Please let us know what you think.
If you have any complaint about the service you (or someone acting on your behalf) can make a complaint by following the information on this page.