Bury St Edmunds: Academic Dr Tom Licence seeks Government intervention over housing development

The development site The development site

Saturday, May 31, 2014
12:31 PM

The Government has been asked to halt plans for 900 homes in Bury – to protect a nearby site described potentially as significant as Stonehenge.

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The concern revolves around a location just outside Fornham All Saints, where historians say there was a prehistoric scheduled monument known as a ‘cursus’.

They say there is evidence of two causewayed enclosures in the area, which could have been one or possibly two wooden henges.

Now, Dr Tom Licence, director of the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia, has written to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles urging him to halt plans for 900 houses in nearby north-west Bury, because of the impact he claims it will have on the site.

The developer, Countryside Properties, argues the homes would have no impact on it – a view backed by archaeologists.

Dr Licence said the Fornham cursus was a “monument of national importance, surrounded by archaeological features indicating continued high-status use”.

He said within the development site itself hundreds of artefacts were discovered during a trenching survey carried out on behalf of the developers, including 23 domesticated pits, a palisaded enclosure and a Bronze Age cremation urn.

Countryside Properties received outline planning permission from St Edmundsbury Borough Council in January.

Dr Licence said in the letter to Mr Pickles: “I asked for a halt to the process, pending an independent and public appraisal of the archaeology, and investigations into the seeming oversights in the [officer’s] report and the granting of outline planning permission.”

Amongst his concerns were that the report which guided the committee members’ decision had “omitted” all archaeological data and an English Heritage map.

A spokesman for Countryside said the firm was “fully confident” its proposal would have no impact on the Fornham cursus.

He said as early as 2010 they recognised – due to the proximity of the Fornham cursus to the site – they needed to have comprehensive archaeological surveys.

He said Suffolk County Council oversaw this process and was given the findings, and English Heritage was aware of the work being carried out.

The spokesman said: “The extensive archaeological surveys across the site led Suffolk County Council to conclude that no areas should be left protected as they were not sufficiently significant.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council added: “The archaeological remains that have been encountered are quite clearly of local and/or regional significance (and not of national significance), and can be preserved by record in accordance with the planning condition relating to archaeology.”

The spokesman for Countryside added a “further extensive phase” of archaeological mitigation would begin this summer and any artefacts would be retained and records kept.

A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which carried out a statutory consultation with the county’s archaeological unit, said if a hoard of items of international importance was discovered it was “entirely possible” the development would be halted.

The Department for Communities and Local Government was unavailable for comment.

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