Marske: Dispute between developer and local councillor over 'Roman villa' discovered on Yorkshire building site

Developers have confirmed archaeological finds in Marske, although suggestions of a potential Roman villa and outbuildings have been played down.

Calls have been made to halt a huge housing development on the outskirts of Marske, near Redcar, after the discovery of historic remains.

Local councillor Dr Tristan Learoyd claimed evidence of a Roman villa and outbuildings had been unearthed along a half-a-mile along a right of way known locally as Plummers Lane, which was significant and potentially of “national importance”.

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However developers Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes, while confirming some ‘Romano-British remains’, said no villas or outbuildings had been found to date.

Councillor Tristan Learoyd at the site in MarskeCouncillor Tristan Learoyd at the site in Marske
Councillor Tristan Learoyd at the site in Marske

Preparatory works have been taking place for a 812-home development on a greenfield site bounded by Longbeck Road, the A1085 and A174, with permission also in place for a convenience store, primary school, nursery, GP surgery and pharmacy, community hall, petrol filling station, drive-thru restaurant, pub and hotel.

Cllr Learoyd, who chairs the planning committee on Redcar and Cleveland Council, said he had written to the secretary of state to “demand a halt to the development until the full site has been excavated and to ensure the historical site is not destroyed”.

The development first received outline planning permission in 2017 after an appeal with more detailed matters being approved by the council last year at a stormy meeting which heard allegations from then committee chairman Councillor Stuart Smith of threats and bullying involving protestors.

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In November it emerged fence posts had been erected in error by contractors on the edge of a protected scheduled ancient monument adjacent to the planned new housing – the remains of a manorial settlement, dovecote and medieval field system.

An aerial view of the site with Longbeck Road to the rightAn aerial view of the site with Longbeck Road to the right
An aerial view of the site with Longbeck Road to the right

Marske resident Peter Finlinson, a local parish councillor who has been a leading figure in opposition to the scheme, said the matter had been reported to Cleveland Police and condemned the “reckless actions”.

Prior to this local residents had turned out in the village to publicly express their anger over the cutting down of hedgerows in order to provide access points for site construction which is said to have caused wildlife to run for cover.

Cllr Learoyd said he understood the archaeological finds had occurred earlier last year, but he had only found out last week after visiting the site on his bike and speaking directly to contractors working on behalf of a local archaeological services company.

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He said: “They said they had found Roman remains – a ladder settlement – I did not know what that was and had to look it up.

“I put up a Facebook post and other archaeologists have started looking at it.”

Cllr Learoyd said there could be more to unearth and suggested the full planning permission in place may have to be “revoked”.

He said: “For me there is no way they are building on something like this.”

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Karl Steanson, who lives locally and has gathered aerial images of the site, said there was strong evidence to suggest a major early settlement, including potential roundhouse remains – a form of housing built in Britain from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age created from stone and with thatched roofs.

A spokeswoman for the Taylor Wimpey and Miller Homes consortium said: “As part of our pre-start work, we have been actively working with archaeologists, the council, and Historic England to record the archaeological remains identified from a geophysical survey at Marske-by-the-Sea.

“This work has revealed some Romano-British remains, however no Roman villas or outbuildings have been found to date.

“Our archaeological consultants continue to work diligently with various parties to ensure the preservation of all historical findings as required.”

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The statement said all work being undertaken had been agreed with an archaeological advisor to the council, which acts as the local planning authority.

Meanwhile, the previously installed fence posts were being removed under archaeological supervision in line with Historic England guidance with no impact on the scheduled monument.

A Historic England spokesman said: “We are aware that there has been an archaeological discovery at a housing development site in Marske-by-the-Sea and we are providing technical advice to the developer’s archaeological contractor.

“It is our understanding that the contractor is following best practice in this matter and is working in close consultation with the local authority.”

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Councillor Lynn Pallister, cabinet member for growth and enterprise, said the existing planning permission included a condition for the developers to explore land opposite the scheduled ancient monument and these findings had already been shared with the council.

She said: “The wider site was not subject to any archaeological conditions, but the developer has agreed to undertake more archaeological works to ensure the land is recorded before development continues.”