Chariot track will be protected

THE lead archaeologist at a groundbreaking dig in Britain's oldest recorded town has issued reassurances about the future of the site.The move comes after Colchester MP Bob Russell called for national heritage bodies to take action to make sure the town's recently discovered chariot racetrack was preserved for generations to come.

THE lead archaeologist at a groundbreaking dig in Britain's oldest recorded town has issued reassurances about the future of the site.

The move comes after Colchester MP Bob Russell called for national heritage bodies to take action to make sure the town's recently discovered chariot racetrack was preserved for generations to come.

Mr Russell made his comments in an early day motion published in yesterday's order paper at the House of Commons.

The motion called for the recognition of the national importance of the discovery and the fact it was within the former Colchester Garrison boundaries, an area that was sold by the Ministry of Defence for housing development.


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Mr Russell's motion also called “on all with a responsibility for safeguarding our national heritage to take the necessary action to ensure this unique ancient site is preserved for future generations to view.”

However, yesterday Rob Masefield, senior archaeological consultant for environmental assessors, RPS, said that English Heritage was already involved in considering the future of the find, as was Colchester Borough Council.

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RPS has been managing Colchester Archaeological Trust in the way the digs on the Abbey Field site - where the Roman Circus was discovered - have been located and conducted. The firm was hired by construction firm Taylor Woodrow to deal with the archaeological implications of the area.

Mr Masefield said: “I can reassure the public the remains have been, and will be, dealt with in the correct way.

“Taylor Woodrow are going to propose a solution to English Nature and Colchester Borough Council - who will each have their views about what should happen - and the MP should really be speaking to those people.”

Phillip Wise, curator of archaeology at Colchester Borough Council, also said he was happy in the way work on the dig and its future was progressing.

“I think Mr Russell is perhaps being a little bit premature. Taylor Woodrow are doing all the right things. RPS are doing all the right things. We are being kept fully informed, as is English Heritage.

“There is to be a formal meeting between RPS, Taylor Woodrow, Colchester Borough Council and English Heritage within the next fortnight.

“I am very happy with the way things are going. It is a major discovery and needs quite a lot of careful thought and reflection.”

A spokeswoman for the housing developers said: “As far as Taylor Woodrow is concerned the discovery is a positive thing and we are in discussion with RPS, Colchester Archaeological Trust, the council and English Heritage to agree what is going to be the best possible way to preserve the site.

“There is absolutely no possibility of it being destroyed or built over.

“How it will be preserved has not yet been decided but we will consult all concerned. There is no possibility we are going to do anything we should not.”

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