The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) has recommended that further investigation should take place at a potentially historic site in Louth.
The Julian Bower site is currently the subject of a planning application to build 12 new homes, but this is being fiercely opposed by campaigners who claim to have strong evidence that it could be the potential site of the ancient ‘Sidnacester’ cathedral - the location of which remains a subject of debate today, having been lost and sought for over 1,000 years.
An archaeological survey was undertaken by Allen Archeology in the autumn, and their final report stated that “no archaeologically significant features or deposits were revealed in any of the trenches”.
However, campaigner Prisca Furlong commissioned a second expert opinion report by Chiltern Archaeology, which concluded that there were some “significant features of interest”, including an apsidal crop mark and ‘worked stones’ and artefacts found in the soil, and therefore recommended that further investigation should take place.
The letter submitted to ELDC by the Council of British Archaeology last Monday (February 1) supports further investigation in order to “provide assurances that no undiscovered remains of high significance are, in fact, present on the site”.
The letter noted that the largely unconfirmed historical and archaeological research provided by public commentators revealed archaeological potential for the site “greater than that which is evident from the existing archaeological report”.
The CBA letter continued: “We therefore believe that it would be a proportionate response for the Planning Committee to consider conditioning further archaeological mitigation, most effectively in the form of a watching brief ... this, in our view, would be a satisfactory outcome for all parties”.
The letter adds: “The proposed mitigation in no way reflects the handling of the case, which we think has been taken properly, within the confines of the planning system, and based upon the incomplete evidence in the Historic Environment Record”.
In conclusion, the letter states: “The proposal for a watching brief provides an effective compromise which ensures proportionate investigation of archaeological potential, without adversely affecting the site’s commercial potential, thus providing a final safeguard against the possibility that the site does contain important archaeology.”
Although the CBA’s intervention is a positive step for campaigners, Mrs Furlong has stated that she fears a ‘watching brief’ will not be able to accommodate a systematic topsoil artefacts survey which, she claims, several field archaeologists have advised her would be the best way to gain a fuller understanding of what has occurred archaeologically on this site, particularly in the Roman era.
Meanwhile, she has sent in her third application to Historic England to list the site as a Scheduled Monument based on expert analysis of archaeological discoveries to date.