A CONTROVERSIAL area of land in Swindon that is earmarked for a housing development could instead become Swindon’s own “mini-Avebury”, according to campaigners.

The claim comes after ancient stones, which could be part of Swindon’s Neolithic history, were unearthed at Coate.

The two sarsen stones were uncovered by the Highways Agency last week opposite Day House Farm, near the protected Coate Stone Circle.

The find has excited speculation that more historic stones may still lie undiscovered in the area.

Campaigners against a planning application by the Swindon Gateway Partnership to build 1,800 homes and a university campus on land near Coate Water say the development could rob the town of huge potential historic and tourist value.

Jean Saunders, from the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust, said: “There is a real chance here to create almost a mini-Avebury.

“This particular area is steeped in pre-history. We know of a Bronze Age settlement just south of Coate Water, two round barrows opposite Richard Jefferies’ old house at Coate, two stone circles on Day House Farm and lines of stones linking these together with others.

“It would be criminal to surround these ancient relics of the past with modern buildings. Who knows how many more of these old stones lie undiscovered? Can Swindon afford to lose more of its history?

“This raises a lot of unanswered questions. We are very aware of the importance of this whole area and it is not just Bronze Age, but medieval and Roman.

“This is something I wanted to bring up at the inquiry but because the developers didn’t actually put forward an archaeologist there wasn’t the chance. The problem was that English Heritage and the county archaeologist dropped their objections at the eleventh hour, so it no longer became an issue for the planning inspector.”

Felicity Cobb, from the Save Coate campaign, said: “It would be nice if the planning inspector took this into account but I’m not holding my breath.”

Wiltshire county archaeologist Melanie Pomeroy-Kellinger said: “I haven’t been able to go and see the stones yet but they do occur naturally in the area. There is a stone circle nearby which is a scheduled monument.”

The inquiry into SGP’s planning appeal officially closes on March 27, after which the planning inspector will make his recommendations to secretary of state Hazel Blears.