DIARY: Potatoes blight archaeological site

The next time that you tuck into a plate of oven-ready chips, be aware that you could be contributing to the destruction of one of the UK's most important archaeological discoveries.

Scientists have unearthed the remains of village settlements dating back 6,000 years buried under land at West Heslerton, just off the A64 between Malton and Filey in North Yorkshire. But the discovery is under threat from farmers keen to dig up the land to grow potatoes to supply a nearby chip factory.

The remains were found while a survey was being carried out prior to mineral extraction on the site. The find includes hamlets, farms and cemeteries dating from the Bronze and Iron Ages as well as Roman and Anglo-Saxon relics. English Heritage is in a race to save the remains, which are being damaged by deep ploughing needed to grow the crop.

"The discovery is unique and destroying it with potato farming would be like burning a priceless masterpiece," argues David Miles, chief archaeologist at English Heritage. Negotiations are taking place between farmers and DEFRA.

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