A charity behind plans for a new ‘Roman Quarter’ in York has hit back at historic conservation experts who described the idea as “fundamentally flawed”.
York Archaeological Trust (YAT) has issued an eight page response to the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and Historic England, who both oppose plans for a new underground Roman museum, apartments and a hotel in Rougier Street.
The project – a partnership between Rougier Street Developments and YAT – is a resubmission of an application thrown out by councillors last year.
The new application has sparked a war of words between YAT, the CBA and Historic England.
The CBA said the scheme was using the heritage visitor attraction, which would be twice the size of Jorvik, “as leverage to overdevelop the site as a whole” and described it as “unethical”.
The development would involve a two-year archaeological dig – with findings displayed in the museum – but the organisations are at loggerheads about the merits of the dig.
The CBA has said it is “completely unknown” if the proposed excavation would produce suitable finds to warrant a new attraction, adding that the promise of a museum “should not be used to mask these fundamental flaws in the proposal.”
Historic England has said that the “complete excavation of one third of the site would cause a high degree of harm to the archaeology.”
But YAT, in a submission to the City of York Council, accuses the organisations of misrepresenting their position, making misleading arguments and incorrect claims. YAT said:
- it was wrong to argue that the area for the proposed excavation is based on expediency
- that it was misleading to claim it was using waterlogged deposits as justification for the dig
- and that the CBA had erroneously claimed there was only a budget of £1m for the project.
YAT said: “CBA seeks to mistakenly present YAT’s entire excavation strategy as driven by the need to mitigate the threat to the archaeological resource.
“We are clear that our excavation strategy is, in reality, focussed on the delivery of public benefit from heritage assets across a broad spectrum – research, education, public engagement, health and wellbeing programmes, tourism, jobs – that includes taking an opportunity to explore waterlogged deposits that have not been explored for more than 30 years and whose management will be improved through a more detailed understanding.”
YAT said the scheme provided an “exceptional opportunity to deliver enormous public benefits”.
It added: “We also consider that YAT’s 50 years of practice in the city demonstrates our sustained commitment to delivering benefits through archaeology to the people of York and beyond.
“This has been made manifest not solely through the Jorvik Viking Centre and our Annual Viking Festival, but through numerous initiatives with community groups.”
The developers have said the project would be “a major economic boost for York”, generating £315 million for the local economy over 30 years, as well as 625 new jobs.
The planning application is expected to go before councillors later this year.