Roman remains have been found on a site earmarked for 180 new homes and a new £7 million link road in Wiltshire. Archaeologists working for housing developer Waddeton Park Ltd in Trowbridge have uncovered remains from a suspected large Roman villa complex.
The site at Southwick Court Fields has been described as potentially having ‘national significance’ but is being threatened by plans to build up to 180 new homes.
Architect and antiquarian Martin Valatin, from Bradford on Avon, identified the possibility of a large Roman villa complex on the site after seeing aerial photographs from the drought year of 1976.
He believes archaeologists will find the remains of a large Roman villa, along with a smaller 1st century villa, barns and other buildings that could include a bath house and a religious shrine.
Mr Valatin said: “The team from Cotswold Archaeology have established that some Roman remains are there. It appears that it is more extensive than what I said.
“They are finding materials such as Roman pottery fragments and stonework in the trenches they have dug.
“Some of it looks as if it has been robbed out and some looks burnt at some points, as ash and the walls had fallen in.”
In February, Wiltshire Council planners refused Devon-based Waddeton Park outline planning permission to build the new homes on the water meadows close to Southwick Court.
Company director Gerry Keay said a geophysical survey and full archaeological assessment had been carried out by the Cotswold Archaeology team.
He added: “That work revealed no indication that there is likely to be Roman or other remains of historical significance.”
A full report on the preliminary findings by Cotswold Archaeology is not expected to be published for several weeks. The company has been approached for a comment.
Planners refused consent following concerns over plans for a £7m new link road from the A363 Bradley Road, and a new £35m 100-metre long bridge over the watermeadows floodplain.
The decision notice said: “In accordance with paragraph 38 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), this planning application has been processed in a proactive way.
“However, due to technical objections or the proposal’s failure to comply with the development plan and/or the NPPF as a matter of principle, the local planning authority has had no alternative other than to refuse planning permission.”
Trowbridge mayor Graham Hill said: “There is no mention of archaeology in that document, so any remains found will only serve to strengthen the case for rejection adding in another layer of evidence against the application.”
Mr Valatin was involved in discovering the Roman villa at the St Laurence School site in Bradford on Avon, several years ago.
Of the Southwick Court Fields site, he said: “My research indicates there was a Roman road across the site and I found what appeared to be a large Roman villa adjacent to it on an aerial photo taken during the 1976 drought.
“Wessex Archaeology inspected the evidence in 2021 with one of their top experts describing it as ‘compelling’.
“According to my research, one range of the villa is under the proposed housing, with the rest of the complex threatened with destruction by a pond and tree roots.
“What appears to be Phase One of the villa, which was later moved to where water could be supplied to run the baths, is under the planned housing.
“There are what appear to me to be archaeological features under nine out of 13 housing blocks and a third complex under the proposed link road.”
Ward councillors and archaeological experts fear that if Waddeton Park appeals the decision and outline planning permission is granted the Roman remains could be lost or destroyed.