Roman town site could be sold for protection

THE site of one of the country's most important Roman towns could be put up for sale next month in a bid to protect it.

Northamptonshire County Council bought Chester Farm near Irchester three years ago with 1.2m from the Government and has since looked at several plans to improve the site, including creating a museum on the land.

The site, which includes the remains of a Roman walled town, a Saxon village and farm buildings dating back to the 16th century, is seen as one of the county's major assets and earlier this year the county council gave assurances it would not sell it.

But leading councillors have now argued the authority does not have enough money to improve and safeguard the area and should sell it to someone who can invest in it and stop it falling into disrepair.

County council cabinet member Andre Gonzalez De Savage said the area would only be sold if the new owner agreed to preserve the historic environment and would ensure the public would still have access to it.

He added: "The farm buildings require about 500,000 of work to bring them up to standard and we're really quite concerned about the poor condition of the buildings.

"We're doing our very best to find a good use for the buildings and not let them decay."

The sale of the site could put the authority at risk of losing the 1.2m grant it received from the Government but it believes the proceeds from the sale will cover this.

Surveys of the site have revealed it includes the remains of temples, a massive burial ground, homes, businesses and roads.

The Roman village is a listed ancient monument and the farmhouse is Grade II listed.

The county council's cabinet will be asked to approve the plan to sell the site at a meeting next week.

If the cabinet approves plans to sell it, the authority is expected to start marketing the site from next month.