| 2 September 2004
Plans to save Guernsey dig remain blocked
An archaeological site in Guernsey (Channel Islands, UK) could be lost because of a row between the owner and the Environment Department. Remains dating from 4000 to 2000 BCE are evident in a courtyard surrounded by the Swan Inn, Bank of Bermuda and accountants Lince Salisbury. They are threatened even though the owner wants to preserve them as part of a new development.
When accountant Michael Fattorini bought the site, it had permission for an office development. But site investigations uncovered a unique stone cairn. He then shelved the plans to expand his office into the site and proposed a car park with public viewing and access for academics.
"I fail to understand its stance in reality. Here is someone saying there's a site and rather than develop it I'm happy to preserve it," said Mr Fattorini. "The Environment Department is just saying no and giving it no support whatsoever."
The site is the only one of its type in the Channel Islands and states archaeologist Heather Sebire carried out investigations on the site three years ago when an office development was planned. There was going to be a three-storey office on the site with parking on the ground floor.
Mr Fattorini would like to have parking around the archaeological remains, which would be covered with glass, with a viewing window in an exterior wall for the public to view the remains.
"The Environment Department wonít countenance it, just saying 'no, you have to build on it because itís detrimental to the area if itís left open'."
The site was investigated because it is located in a promising area. Royal Hotel investigations found prehistoric material. "We started digging a very small trench, but then we came down into a stone-built cairn, which turned out to be quite substantial" said Mrs Sebire. The investigation only uncovered part of the cairn, which is thought to be triangular, and it may possibly run under the more-modern buildings.
Cairns, a mound of stones associated with memorials or markers, are associated with burials, although there is no evidence yet of that. There is evidence of agricultural work, with ancient plough marks, leading Mrs Sebire to believe it could be a clearance cairn, part of prehistoric land management. "It's significant and different, and totally different to the dolmens of a similar period," she said, adding that the closest similar example would be in Northern France.
An Environment Department spokesman said that while he could not comment on confidential planning issues, the department would welcome the opportunity to talk to Mr Fattorini about options for the site.
Source: The Guernsey Press and Star (1 September 2004)
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