What discovery of Roman settlement in West Sussex means for the development plans - and will there be a new tourist attraction?

The discovery of a a Roman settlement in West Sussex will ‘not affect the previously anticipated timescales’ for the build of 1,300 homes, the developer has revealed.

An archaeological dig in Tangmere – to support the planning process for the development of 1,300 homes – has identified ‘areas of archaeological interest’ on the site, which includes the remains of a Roman settlement.

Countryside Properties (UK) Ltd is working with Chichester District Council and Tangmere Parish Council on the development of 1,300 homes and community facilities at Tangmere Village.

As a result of the discovery, the University College of London's (UCL) Archaeology South-East team will be undertaking archaeological excavations across 14 hectares of the site ‘over the course of the next three years’.

The excavation will cover 14 hectares, with work commencing in April 2024 and running until late 2026.

The incredible discovery on land earmarked for new homes left residents wondering if a new plan could be possible.

Among them was Chichester Observer reader Steve Cox, who wrote: “Great news, let's hope they find a great mosaic floor and Roman baths. No new housing just a great new tourist attraction.”

Asked if this idea could be possible, the project team replied: “This would not happen. However, a key area of the small village in the centre of the site will be preserved as green public open space where there will be opportunities for the sites archaeological past to be celebrated.”

This newspaper also asked the project team how the discovery will affect the timetable for building.

A spokesperson said: “Chichester District Council resolved to grant outline planning permission for development on the site, however, the detailed or ‘reserved matters’ planning application(s) are still to be agreed and finalised. We are therefore still someway off having full planning permission to commence construction.

"These applications can progress whilst archaeology works are undertaken.

“These works do not affect the previously anticipated timescales associated with the delivery of the scheme.”

Asked if plans will have to change to preserve the finds, the spokesperson added: “No, the technical work undertaken to support the outline planning process identified areas of archaeological interest.

“The extent and focus of the archaeological investigations are in line with an informed and collaborative consultation process, whereby the permitted masterplan layout for development of Tangmere SDL allows for an area of preservation in situ with the remainder of the site to be preserved by record and excavated to fully appreciate the archaeological origins of the site.”

Extensive archaeological surveys and ‘two phases of trial trenching’ have already taken place at the Tangmere SDL site.

“The forthcoming work is in line with the proposed planning conditions stipulating that the identified areas of interest should be fully excavated, the finds recorded and removed for appropriate analysis with the aim of eventually depositing them with the local museum and publishing the results,” the spokesperson for the developers added.

"This is not therefore new or unexpected information for Vistry Group, who are committed to carrying out a comprehensive process to ensure thorough excavation and analysis takes place.

“Vistry and Chichester District Council have been working collaboratively on this site throughout the pre-application and outline application stages and will continue to work together as the Reserved Matters planning applications are progressed.”

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