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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK


Centre of excellence's bitter blow

Centre of excellence plans hit another setback

The Welsh Rugby Union has been dealt a bitter blow over its plans to build a rugby centre of excellence.

Just hours before the Welsh office transferred its powers to the new Assembly, Welsh Secretary Alun Michael, ruled that the WRU must carry out an environmental impact study into plans to build the centre of excellence on the outskirts of Caerleon in south east Wales.

Protestors claim the scheme will damage the environment and the possibility of archaeological finds on the site.

The announcement comes just weeks after Sportlot withdrew its support in principal for the scheme.

Sportlot had agreed to earmark 1.7m to build on land owned by Welsh billionaire Terry Matthews.

Its pulled out because the WRU failed to get planning permission by the agreed date.

Group calls for archaelogical study

The Usk Valley Defence Group has been calling for the Celtic Manor Hotel to commission an archaeological study of the land it is providing for the proposed centre of excellence.

The defence group sent the hotel a copy of a letter from the Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University which refers to the "strong possibility that a major archaeological site exists in the region and may well extend into the proposed development area".

The letter adds the site could be of great international importance and it is essential that a full environmental impact assessment is carried out.

Bryan Dale, secretary of the defence group, says an archaeological study at the site had been promised by a Celtic Manor Hotel spokesman.

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