BULLDOZERS are about to bury some of the most exciting remains of a lost civilisation to be found in the North West.
Archaeologists in a field off King Street have unearthed a treasure trove of Roman artefacts. The discoveries include one of the best-preserved Roman roads in the region and pieces of history to rival Chester's Roman attractions.
But just a month away from the launch of the town's Roman Middlewich Festival, a celebration of its ancient heritage, the site is to become a luxury housing estate.
Campaigners fought hard to preserve the land as a Roman heritage site, aware of the potential goldmine beneath the soil. Town and borough councils both opposed the planning application by Fairclough Homes, but at a planning inquiry, a Government inspector gave the housing estate the go-ahead.
Former Middlewich mayor Cllr Dave Sutton said: 'We all knew there was something under there and that is the most devastating and frustrating thing we are losing this site because of a faceless bureaucrat.
'The blame lies fairly and squarely with the appeals director who has let this happen. There is living history down there and to build houses over it, it will be gone forever.'
Groups of Middlewich High School pupils have been so concerned they have spent their evenings and weekends collecting signatures on a petition urging people 'to stop them building houses on our 2,000-year-old heritage'.
Developers Fairclough Homes have funded a rescue operation, spending £100,000 on archaeological work to scour the site for precious artefacts.
The finds will now be analysed and documented for public record.
Land manager for Fairclough Homes, Andrew Sheldon, said: 'We have undertaken the archaeological work in accordance with national planning guidance.
Everything has been done to the highest possible standard and we have been continually monitored by archaeologists at Cheshire County Council.
'Had we not done this, no one would have known about what was on this site.'
But Cllr Mike Hunter said: 'So many areas of Middlewich have been dug up and destroyed for the sake of houses. The whole area around King Street is a Roman haven. The heritage of this area is not something which should have a JCB bucket ploughed through it. When planning permission was given for this site it was a very sad day for Middlewich.'