ARCHAEOLOGISTS have claimed the undiscovered heritage of North Yorkshire could be destroyed if a council cuts its historic environment team.

Teesside Archaeological Society claim North Yorkshire County Council is looking to reduce its budget for Waste and Countryside Services by £470,000, as part of a drive to save £94m over four years.

The society believes the cuts could see the authority lowering its in staff costs for services, including archaeology, by £155,000, from April.

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The council’s historic environment team employs four staff, including an historic environment record officer, and provides archaeological guidance to planning authorities, developers, residents and landowners across the county, excluding the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales national parks.

Spencer Carter, the society’s chairman, said he feared the cuts could lead to a situation where planning applications were approved without any archaeological oversight.

He said: “Everywhere you put a shovel in North Yorkshire you find some archaeology, so any reductions to the historic environment team, which is already stripped to the bone, would present a huge risk to the county’s heritage or destroy it.”

Mr Carter said the society would write to the council to urge consideration of how cuts to the department could hit tourism revenues, with less protection for sites of historic interest yet to be exposed.

He added: "Archaeology services have the potential to generate income through commercial work, service charges and grant-funded projects.

“However, without sufficient staff in post to put this into practice, the service is likely to be increasingly vulnerable to cuts in future.”

A spokesman for the authority said: “The county council is facing enormous financial challenges, and has identified a number of areas in which savings can be achieved. These include the historic environment team.

"As yet no detailed proposals have been drawn up for how any savings might be implemented, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”