Thursday, 28 July 2011

Save Roman Southwell - Once-in-a-lifetime chance for heritage

Roman remains in Southwell could be used for education and tourism if they are preserved, a group campaigning against development has claimed.

The Save Roman Southwell campaign wants to see the former Church Street site of the Minster School protected.

It is appealing for the site to be made a heritage area incorporating Southwell Minster, the Archbishop’s Palace and the prebendal houses on Church Street and Westgate.

Experts believe the remains site, later used as an Anglo Saxon cemetery, could provide the link between the Roman occupation of Southwell, the origins of Christianity in the town, and the building of the minster.

Mr Trevor Wight, of Save Roman Southwell, told the town council that the Roman remains were of significant archaeological importance and formed part of the historic core of the town.

He said: “We feel the historic core should be extended to create a tourist destination of local and national importance.

“What we envisage is a Roman heritage park including the archaeological remains linking with the other parts of the historic core.

“The building blocks are there because you have got the minster nearby with its own marketing and visitor guides.”

Mr Wight said they wanted the land returned to the community, which could preserve the remains and make the site usable before providing interpretation boards and a visual representation of the remains.

He said they then hoped to open the site up for archaeological investigation from experts and the community and finally create an educational facility and expose some of the remains, although this was likely to be very expensive.

Mr Wight said: “We have here a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and if we don’t take it now it will be gone.

“We have the opportunity to create a unique, attractive tourist centre on the site.

“We want to create a more complete package of tourism attractions and this has the potential not just to enhance tourism in Southwell, but tourism in Nottinghamshire.”

Caunton Properties Ltd has submitted plans for 29 homes on the site.

The plans have been delayed from going before Newark and Sherwood District Council’s planning committee several times but it is believed they will be decided by Christmas.

The Save Roman Southwell campaign and Southwell Town Council are against the application.

A member of the campaign group, Mr Peter Kent, said English Heritage was still against making the site a Scheduled Ancient Monument, which would protect it from development.

He said the group believed the site had more surprises to reveal and, if development was allowed, the remains would be lost forever.

Caunton Properties Ltd has told the town council it is considering selling the land to an Irish syndicate regardless of the outcome of the planning application.


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