Staffordshire’s county archaeologist today warned the controversial HS2 scheme could destroy as yet undiscovered heritage sites of great value.
Archaeologist Stephen Dean said he was ‘really concerned’ about the impact the high speed rail link could have on the county, with the project set to cut through swathes of Staffordshire countryside.
It comes after the archaeological profile of the county was raised by the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard – the world’s largest find of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork at Hammerwich, near Lichfield in July 2009. In January, further finds from the field, which lies six miles from the route, were also declared part of the Hoard.
Archaeologists including Mr Dean now believe there could be more valuable sites in the area lying close to the route, which are in danger of being lost.
“It is not so much the sites we already know about, but the potential of unknown sites that really concerns us,” Mr Dean said.
Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins echoed Mr Dean’s concerns.
He said: “What I would like to know is has HS2 Ltd made allowances for the fact that there could be more archaeological finds like that of the Staffordshire Hoard waiting to happen?
Staffordshire County Council has already submitted a detailed report to HS2 Ltd highlighting areas at risk and calling on the company to show how it will make sure valuable historical material is not lost forever. The council has raised archaeology as one of a series of key issues which it believes must be tackled if the project is to go ahead.
“The landscape around Lichfield and the three spires on the medieval English cathedral is particularly sensitive,” Mr Dean added.
About four miles from the planned line is Letocetum.
A series of Roman forts and an associated civilian settlement, Letocetum also contained a bath house, postal station and administrative buildings.