Dozens of trenches, dug in open countryside as part of an archaeological excavation, could determine the future of a controversial scheme to build a state of the art national rugby centre for Wales.
Archaeologists called in to excavate the site on the east bank of the river Usk near Caerleon have uncovered part of a Roman road and the remains of several buildings from the civilian settlement that grew up outside the Roman garrison town almost 2,000 years ago.
The excavation has been carried out as part of an environmental impact assessment demanded by planning officials. Sixty trenches, each up to 40 metres long (131 feet), have been dug over a 1 sq km area in an attempt to establish the extent of the settlement.
Cadw, the body responsible for looking after ancient monuments in Wales, is awaiting a report from the archaeological team before deciding how best to protect the site.
Plans to site the proposed Welsh Rugby Union "centre of excellence" on the flood plain of lower Usk valley have met with opposition from environmentalists and residents. They hope the results of the excavation will signal the death knell for a project they claim would lead to "urbanisation" of the valley and cause noise and light pollution.
Steve Howell, a spokesman for the site owners, said yesterday it would be possible to amend the proposals to take account of the archaeological findings.
The £5m centre, designed to include six floodlit pitches, accommodation and indoor training facilities for Wales's rugby stars of the future, would be built on 28 acres of low grade farmland.
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