HERITAGE campaigners fear plans to cut funding for Chester’s archaeology service could see important pieces of the city’s past lost for ever.
Cheshire West and Chester Council wants the service to become entirely self-funding by 2017, saving the council about £110,000 each year.
But Chester Archaeological Society believes the cost-cutting could put historic sights and buildings including the City Walls and Roman amphitheatre at risk.
With massive regeneration projects including the Northgate development in the pipeline, the society has urged the council not to jeopardise Chester’s heritage.
They worry developers could be given the go ahead to build without the impact on the city’s past being properly considered.
“The service has a reservoir of expertise on the archaeology of the city,” said society committee member Peter Carrington.
“There is a huge amount of archaeological work carried out when the Forum was being built in the 1960s that has never been published.
“The Northgate area was right in the heart of the Roman fortress and all that information is just sitting there in chests, ring binders and boxes.
“It has never been analysed in detail but it would tell us so much about Chester as a city and its place in Roman Britain.
“Without people with the long-accumulated knowledge and expertise, ultimately those discoveries will go out of living memory.
“If you let this team fade way then that level of knowledge will simply not be available in future.”
The council said it does not want to discontinue or reduce the service and believes generating extra income and external funding can cover the shortfall.
But Mr Carrington said relying on external funding would lead to an uncertain future and could result in jobs being lost.
“The important thing is that it is a matter of continuity and we think we need a stable service,” he said.
“When you have developments, contractors typically carry out excavations and write up reports but they can be quite abbreviated. They tend to be stand alone things and do not integrate into what we know about the city as a whole. You end up with scattered fragments.
“You need people who call pull all the bits together with background knowledge of Chester and the period to make sense of it all.”
Work carried out by the archaeology service includes amphitheatre excavations, maintenance of the city walls and work on the Roman gardens.
“All the detailed knowledge is going into these projects is the sort of thing that could be lost,” said Mr Carrington.
He said the council’s own One City Plan for Chester includes the aim to ‘respect, reveal and celebrate the city’s rich historical heritage and architecture’.
“What I am saying to the council is put your money where your mouth is so you can fulfil your own aspirations,” said Mr Carrington.