BUILDING of the world’s first Roman eco-system reconstruction could begin next year, after a quarry site was donated to the project.
Ambitious plans to build a Roman fort and Iron Age village with an ancient environment at Fagl Lane, near Hope, have been given a massive boost with the gifting of land to the non-profit Park in the Past community interest company (formerly The Roman Fort Project).
Hanson UK has donated all its holdings at the site after an appeal from former Alyn and Deeside MP Lord Barry Jones, a supporter of the plans.
Paul Harston, of Bryn Yorkin, Caergwrle and managing director of Park in the Past, said he could hardly believe it when he heard the news.
He said: “I was on a train to Liverpool dressed as a Roman Centurion for a corporate event. When I started jumping up and down, I don’t think the other passengers could quite believe it either.”
He added: “We’ve been in protracted negotiations to acquire the land for over two years now, and although this gift is dependent on our buying the northern half of the site from a private owner, we‘re now in a position to close the deal and get on with the real work.”
Fellow director ecologist Robin Brown said there were still hurdles to jump, but it was hoped work would start next spring.
“We were already confident but this has made things a lot easier,” he said. “It’s halved the amount of money we’ll need to borrow.”
He said with the support of Hanson UK, the project was in a stronger position in terms of applying for further grants.
Hanson UK chief executive Patrick O’Shea said the company was excited to support the unique project.
“This has the potential for considerable educational, economic and community benefits,” he said. “We’re delighted to add our support by donating the land.
“The Park in the Past plan is to restore the old sand and gravel quarry site into a place of experimentation and research into pre-historic and Roman environments, ecology building techniques and lifestyle by creating an ecosystem based around first and second centuries AD.”
Mr Harston, who runs Roman Tours Ltd which delivers educational trips in Chester, added: “Our team of professional ecologists from Enfys Ecology have almost completed a full ecological survey of the site, so we can establish exactly what wildlife is already present,” he said.
“We’re about to start work on a detailed management plan, for which we’ve already provisionally awarded the contract.”
An appeal has been launched to help cover the costs of the early stages of development.
Mr Harston said: “The first two years of operation will be the most difficult. People who want to help make this community project happen can become a ‘Friend of Park in The Past’ by making a small monthly donation.
“This is essential if the project is to survive until it can start generating income from commercial activities.”
Everyone who subscribes during this period will gain special status as a ‘founder friend’, entitling them to concessions in the future.
For details about the project, to get involved or become a founder friend, visit the Park in the Past Facebook page, or call 01978 761264. A new website will soon be launched at www.parkinthepast.org.uk