|17 July 2007
Rotherwas Ribbon: controversy rages on
Campaigners fighting to preserve a 4,000-year-old archaeological find in Herefordshire (England) say they are facing a race against time. Experts have said the newly-uncovered Rotherwas Ribbon could be as important as Stonehenge. However, the site is in the path of a controversial planned relief road. Herefordshire Council said a protective shield will be built over the site to save it for future generations and the road will then be built over it.
English Heritage inspectors visited the site, also known as the Dinedor Serpent. They said the site was "very fragile". If they decide the 197ft-long (60m) ribbon of stones is worthy of ancient monument status, it could prevent the road being built. Archaeologists have said there are no parallels to the site in the rest of Europe. Dr Keith Ray, Herefordshire County Archaeologist, said the site was unique because it was built in three dimensions.
Ward councillor Gerald Dawe, who is fighting to save the Ribbon, said: "What we're going to have is a road which no-one wants, going over a part of our history which has a lot of public support." Campaigner Rob Hattersley said the site could be turned into a heritage site, attracting tourists to the area. Council chiefs have said the English Heritage inspectors are 'completely satisfied' with how they have been handling the situation so far.
However, local campaigners have said recent downpours have led to part of the trail being washed away and say the feature needs more permanent protection before it is too late. The council's highways and transport spokesman Councillor Brian Wilcox said the road was essential for Herefordshire's economic growth.
The council is producing a CD-Rom of the site to show the feature from all angles so it can be kept on record and to show future generations in case the road-building work goes ahead. A petition calling on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to help save the Rotherwas Ribbon also received more than 210 signatures within its first day. The English Heritage inspectors are expected to deliver their verdicts over the next few weeks. In the meantime, eight protesters calling for a halt to road building have been arrested after staging a sit-in at council buildings. A West Mercia Police spokesman said: "Eight people have been arrested for aggressive trespass when they refused to leave the council chamber. The situation was dealt with very quickly after that. There was no trouble with the people who were outside." A statement from Herefordshire Council said: "While those initially attending the meeting did so by invitation to the public, that invitation was conditional on them allowing the meeting of the Cabinet to proceed in accordance with the Local Government Act 2000. Despite several requests from the chairman they have refused to comply with the ruling of the chair and the meeting has had to be abandoned and removed elsewhere. In taking this action those initially invited have breached the terms of that invitation and in the view of the council are now trespassing on council property. They had been requested to leave and refused to do so."
Herefordshire Council's Deputy Leader, June French, addressed protestors ahead of the meeting and said the council was awaiting a full report from English Heritage. Cllr French reassured the group that work on the Rotherwas Relief Road had now stopped and that the issue would be discussed at the council's next cabinet meeting in a month’s time. She also revealed there is to be an internal investigation into how the council 'managed the news' of the Rotherwas Ribbon's discovery.
Sources: BBC News (9, 11 and 12 July 2007), 4dash.com (12 July 2007)
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