Council calls for archaeological digs before former Notcutts plans move forward
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Essex County Council has called on developers at a former Notcutts site to allow archeological work to be undertaken in the hopes of finding prehistoric treasures.
No stranger to rich finds under the soil, the village of Ardleigh in north Essex has been found to be built above prehistoric, bronze age, Roman and Anglo Saxon settlements.
In the 1950s, a bronze age cemetery was also found by local farmer Felix Erith.
And now, as plans have been unveiled for part of the former garden centre, the local authority's historic environment officer Teresa O'Connor has recommended a team of archaeologists should carry out works in the hopes of finding more artefacts.
If approved by Tendring District Council, the plans would see a new stables centre constructed on the site to the east of Station Road. This part of the site has has stood empty since the garden centre closed in 2005, resulting in 17 job losses.
Although Ms O'Connor did not object to the plans, she did raise concerns that disturbances during construction could impact on below ground archaeological deposits.
She said: "The proposed development lies within an area of recorded cropmark evidence which is a scheduled monument site.
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"Archaeological excavation within the scheduled area has revealed evidence for multi-period settlement, agriculture, burial and industry from the prehistoric, roman and Saxon periods."
The site would also be landscaped to provide space for grazing horses.
Planning consultants Pomery said they and Notcutts recognise the historical significance of the site and stressed an application has been made to Historic England for Scheduled Ancient Monument Consent.
Historic England are yet to comment on the plans.
The application will be debated by the district council's planning committee in coming weeks.
A corner of the former Notcutts site has already been developed, with the last of 18 new homes completed last year.
The site was formerly home to Abbotts of Ardleigh, a long-standing family-owned seed and nursery business, before being acquired by Notcutts' in 1966.
Notcutts is a Suffolk-based company with nurseries and garden centres across the country.