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3 July 2005
Public meetings about Flag Fen's future

Peterborough City Council is to hold two public meetings aboutplans to build a renewable energy plant near the famous Flag Fen Bronze Age site located in England. Local residents and businesses will get the opportunity to question the company behind the £250 million, 29-acre waste processing energy park proposed for the site at Fengate in Cambridgeshire. The two-hour meetings will be held on July 13 at Peterborough Central Library and on July 25 at Peterborough Town Hall Council Chamber.
     The development has caused concern among residents, as well as staff at Flag Fen who fear it will affect the 20,000 visitors the site receives each year and archaeological remains still in the ground.
But Peterborough Renewable Energy Ltd, the company behind it, maintains that the development will be able to work with Flag Fen. "The estimates for the plantís own sustainability centre expect 30,000 visitors per year," Managing Director Chris Williams said, adding that a shared infrastructure could be developed with the Bronze Age site. "The opportunity for a truly fantastic visitor attraction with archaeology and sustainable living methods at itís core is a unique selling point and should see numbers rise at Flag Fen." According to Williams, the company would look to minimise the impact on archaeology during the construction phase by supporting a full pre-construction dig of the site.
     According to Dr Mike Heyworth, director of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), Flag Fen is "one of our premier prehistoric visitor attractions. One of the few places where people can see an incredible survival of archaeological material." Dr Pryor is currently director of archaeology at Flag Fen and said that he remains very concerned about the development, describing it as "potentially catastrophic." As well as worries about the construction phase, he raised the issue of unexcavated remains, preserved in the waterlogged peat. It is this wetness, he said, that has and continues to preserve remains in the ground so uniquely and if it dries out the archaeology will be destroyed.
     He also highlighted the impact on visitors, which he said is perhaps the most immediate problem. "We are a tourist attraction," he explained, "we opened in 1987 and itís a struggle to keep going. Peterborough is not a tourist area despite having a magnificent cathedral and we are slowly building up a visitor profile, but everything depends on the atmosphere." The fear is that where visitors currently enjoy a peaceful and evocative experience at the site, the proposed plant might change that. Responsibility for approving or disapproving the planning application lies with the Department for Trade and Industry. The city council has until September to compile a report and make comments for consideration.

Source: David Prudames for 24 Hour Museum (30 June 2005)

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