Proposed Peterborough flats planned for land which is ‘Rich Roman Landscape’, archaeological report discovers

The site of 20 proposed flats on a local beauty spot in Peterborough  is a ‘rich Roman landscape’, according to a newly unearthed archaeological report.

Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 4:58 pm
Campaigners gathered last year

The archaeological investigation on the site at Tenter Hill Meadow in Stanground,  was unearthed by activist and spokesperson for ‘Save Tenter Hill Meadow’ Pat Corcoran, who said: “Surely now Medesham Homes must re-think their appeal against the planning refusal?

“I do find it kind of strange however, that we had to ‘discover’ this report by ourselves. It was completely unknown to us at the time of the planning application.”

Developers, Medesham Homes were refused a planning application on the site in November 2018, on grounds that it would remove a much needed open space.

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Following that decision, a spokesperson for Medesham said: “We intend to use every avenue open to us to challenge the committee as the land had previously been allocated for affordable housing.”

An appeal has now been lodged and, as Medesham Homes is jointly run by Peterborough City Council and housing association Cross Keys Homes, it means the council is effectively appealing against its own committee’s decision.

Mrs Corcoran said: “I went over to Flag Fen to ask if they knew of any Roman Artefacts found on or near Tenter Hill, and ironically they told me the person to ask was the council’s own Historic Environment Record’s Officer.

“The officer very kindly emailed a summary of a report that had been sent to Planning Services as far back as July 5, 2018, but which we had never seen or even knew about.

“The only comment on their webpage under archaeology was ‘Not Required’; but, when you read the report and realise what might be sitting there in the ground just meters under the surface, that’s obviously not the case at all.”

The report, which is clearly marked with the council’s planning reference number on it, states that ‘…following investigations the area of Tenter Hill Meadow’ is a ‘…rich Roman landscape’ with ‘…evidence for a Roman settlement and industrial activity represented by kilns sites together with pottery and coins’.

It also states: “…the remains of a wharf and a road covered with Roman potsherds were also recorded close to the kilns. The pottery dated from the middle of the 1st Century AD to the end of the 4th Century, spanning the whole of the Roman period.

“The archaeology recorded during the excavation is suggestive of either an Iron Age or early Romano-British cemetery and, although no skeletal remains were found, the form and nature of the features are indicative of graves and burial monuments.”

Tenter Hill Meadow, north of Thistle Drive in Stanground, was ‘…gifted to the people of Peterborough in perpetuity’ many decades ago, on the condition that it was to have been ‘…protected and maintained’ as an open space by the city council.

When developer, Medesham Homes lodged its planning application for up to 20 flats on the site, to include six affordable homes, residents were angered.

Many locals  said they felt betrayed, and knowing the link between the city council and Medesham Homes, an action group was formed, supported by Cllr Christian Hogg (LibDem, Fletton & Stanground Wards) and Cllr John Whitby (UKIP, Fletton & Stanground Wards).

Cllr Hogg said: “This is a much loved piece of recreational land used every day by locals.”

Cllr Whitby said: “The proposed flats would cause parking problems in the area to only get much worse.”

The area’s Scout group’s hut is situated on the edge of the meadow, and the open ground is regularly used for their activities. Pete Lumley, leader of the  Scout group for the past 35 years, said: “The loss of this open space would be disastrous.”

The residents who contested the original application did so on the basis that they believed the council had an obligation, through ancient agreement, ‘to protect the land in perpetuity, for the people of Peterborough’, and that obligation had been broken.

After the decision of the planning committee in November to refuse Medesham Homes permission to build, Mrs Corcoran said: “We’ve won a battle yes, but we’ve yet to win the war.”

The ‘discovery’ of the archaeological investigation from last July could also influence the future of the land which is used by many residents.

Mrs Corcoran added: “Of course we believe that any decision as to the future of this precious piece of land should now require a full archaeological survey before anything can happen.

“But I like to think that when those people gifted this meadow to the people of Peterborough all those decades ago, they must’ve had some idea about how important it was, of how it has played such an important role in the history of our city, and how maybe there could be hidden treasures still waiting to be found just under the soil.”

Medesham Homes also had an application for 43 homes at Bretton Court , Peterborough, rejected by the council’s planning committee in September 2018.

A spokesperson for the developers said at the time that it was; “…a missed opportunity to help the large number of families in Peterborough in temporary accommodation”, but that it is “…determined to improve the lives of those people affected by homelessness in the city.”