Marske-by-the-Sea: Thousands protest over plans to build 800 homes on site of 'Roman villa' on Yorkshire coast after dispute over heritage

An archaeologist has applied to have a site for 800 new homes on the Yorkshire coast protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument over fears the development could destroy the remains of a Roman villa.

Concern is growing in Marske-by-the-Sea, near Redcar, after rumours began circulating that contractors working on the 118 acres of agricultural land allocated for housebuilding had discovered a Roman villa, outbuildings and even an Iron Age roundhouse ahead of construction beginning.

Yet developers Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes have denied that the remains were significant, saying only that some Romano-British archaeology had been recorded but no villa.

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Redcar-based archaeologist Dr Kendra Quinn has now applied to Historic England for the site to be designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. There is planning permission in place for 812 homes, a pub, hotel, health centre, convenience store, primary school, nursery, drive-thru food outlet and petrol station.

Demonstrators call for the alleged site of a Roman villa near Redcar to be preservedDemonstrators call for the alleged site of a Roman villa near Redcar to be preserved
Demonstrators call for the alleged site of a Roman villa near Redcar to be preserved

The development has been contentious for years, and was passed on appeal by the HM Planning Inspectorate in 2017.

Speculation about the land’s historic importance began when Redcar Council’s chair of planning, Coun Tristan Learoyd, was allegedly told by a site worker who did not recognise him that a large-scale archaeological dig was taking place.

Dr Quinn then submitted a Freedom of Information request for the survey results, which she interpreted as being evidence of a Roman ‘ladder settlement’ spanning 40 acres. She believed crop marks indicated the presence of a Roman villas and identified potential pre-Roman roundhouses and burial mounds from drone images.

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Coun Learoyd’s petition for the site to be granted listed protection received 2,500 signatures, and hundreds attended a demonstration in the centre of the village.

Dr Quinn said: "I believe this site is of significant archaeological importance and is too valuable to be built upon. My application to Historic England is to preserve a site that will teach us much about life here in north-east Yorkshire over an extended period of more than 2,000 years."

Coun Learoyd added: "I have written to the Secretary of State with regards to councillors not being informed of the rich historical value of this site during the planning process, and I call upon Historic England to stop billion pound developers erasing British history."

Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes confirmed that they had commissioned archaeological investigations as part of their pre-site work and would record remains identified from the geophysical survey. They said no Roman villas or outbuildings had been found. Redcar Council’s archaeological consultants have been involved in the work.

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Historic England said they were providing technical advice to the contracted archaeologists, but were satisfied they were following ‘best practice’ and working closely with the council.