A Roman site dubbed the Pompeii of the North has been bought for £2m, allaying fears for its future.
The Binchester Roman Town, where archeologists unearthed artefacts dating back 1,800 years, has been bought by the Auckland Castle Trust.
The Church Commissioners have accepted a £2m bid for the site, having originally rejected it.
Trust bosses had launched a petition urging the commissioners to accept the bid, which 4,000 people signed.
The trust had feared that the commissioners’ plans to sell the site in two lots could have made it harder to preserve the fort and ensure there is public access to it, but have now spoken of saving it for the nation in its entirety.
The fort, on the banks of the River Wear in County Durham, on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland, a mile from Auckland Castle, hit the international headlines in the summer when it was revealed archaeologists had uncovered some of the most exciting historical finds in living memory.
The commissioners then announced plans to sell it in two lots. While the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and can’t be built on, one plot includes Binchester Hall and has planning permission for conversion and development, while the second includes 50% of the Roman remains.
The trust launched an 11th hour bid to buy the site for £2m, ahead of a tender deadline today, Monday.
Bosses feared that if it was split between two owners it could open the risk for surrounding development, curtail public access and see the end of years of academic research. The organisation argued that bringing both plots under its wing would safeguard future access and research.
Its initial bid was rejected, sparking the e-petition which 4,000 signed. And now, the commissioners have accepted the original bid.
Dr Chris Ferguson, Auckland Castle’s head curator, said:
“This is wonderful news and we are delighted that Binchester will now be protected for future generations.
“Contracts still have to be exchanged, but the Auckland Castle Trust has successfully come through the tender process as the preferred bidder and now we can start to look to the future of this vitally important site and ensure its past and status as one of not just Britain’s but Europe’s most important Roman sites is secured.
“Here at Auckland Castle we have been thrilled by the goodwill and support we have received as we strove to raise awareness about Binchester.
“Our first priorities are to secure the site for the winter, work with Durham County Council and English Heritage to help shape Binchester’s future and to start pulling together plans to ensure the Roman remains continue to be available for archaeologists and the public to enjoy for generations to come.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 23 Sept 2014