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Heritage plan for Derry dig sites is critical, says activist

Archaeologists continue to work at the dig site on Bishop Street after some of the skeletons found were removed for examination. (DER3913PG007)

Archaeologists continue to work at the dig site on Bishop Street after some of the skeletons found were removed for examination. (DER3913PG007)

Other sites of archaeological interest in and around a city centre car park where ancient remains have recently been unearthed need to be investigated, according to a local heritage activist.

Mark Lusby, City Walls Heritage Officer with the Holywell Trust, says it’s time for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) to produce what he calls a Heritage Management Plan not only for the car park site at Bishop Street but also for adjacent sites across the City Walls, stretching as far as the Long Tower.

He also queried if DRD Roads Service was best placed to determine the future of “such an important heritage site.”

Mr. Lusby says the car park finds have raised a “debate about what should happen after the archaeological excavation is complete.”

He said: “Only a few of the remains have been temporarily removed, enough just to allow the archaeologists to dig down into earlier time horizons. The intention would appear to be to leave the rest of the burials in situ, just uncovering them to discover the extent of the burial ground.”

He added: “Local historians have long suspected that the former gardens of the Bishop’s Palace would yield archaeological evidence of both the monastic and plantation foundations of this city and have been quietly lobbying to have the site investigated. It is critical now that the NIEA produces a Heritage Management Plan for the site within the carpark and for adjacent sites across the City Walls, down to the Long Tower.

“This plan should be underpinned by sufficient resources to allow other potential pockets of undisturbed ground in the carpark and adjacent areas to be investigated archaeologically over a three year period. More immediately, the plan should determine what should happen to the burial site in the Bishop Street car park once the excavations are completed.

“It is critical that local heritage interests are included in the process of preparing the plan and that it is not just left to NIEA, City Council and Queen’s University to determine.”

Besides a heritage plan, Mark Lusby also believes a Traffic Management Plan for the Walled City is long overdue.

He said: “The results of this initial dig mean that solutions are needed more urgently than ever to facilitate the economic life of the Walled City, in ways which work with, rather than compromising, Derry’s heritage.”

 

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