Remains of a prehistoric and late Iron Age settlement near North Petherton in Somerset have halted a major housing development. Archaeologists have discovered a series of 18 trenches dating back to Triassic, late Iron Age and early Roman periods on land off Newton Road earmarked for 140 homes.

Sedgemoor District Council turned down the plan due to a lack of information that

“the development would not have a significant adverse impact on the surrounding archaeology.”

Gladman Developments, which is behind the proposal, has appealed the decision and a five-day planning inquiry will be heard at the council’s headquarters starting on March 20.

A spokesman for the housebuilder said:

“The appeal is due to open on Tuesday, March 20, so obviously we wouldn’t make any statements at this stage that may prejudice that. These issues will all be aired during the inquiry.”

Cotswold Archaeology excavated 18 trenches on the site in December and a report, drawn up on behalf of Gladman and published last month, has revealed the significance of the discovery.

Beth Jerrett, a spokeswoman for the South West Heritage Trust, said:

A trial trench evaluation has been carried out which revealed a possible barrow and part of a Late Iron Age/Early Roman settlement. These remains are locally significant and could shed light on the settlement and use of the area in the prehistoric and Roman periods.

Prehistoric flint flakes and Roman finds from AD 43 to AD 410

Later prehistoric (pre-AD 43) flint flakes have been identified during ploughing in the south eastern part of the site and cropmarks of two enclosures of a potential later prehistoric date have been identified to the immediate east and north east of the site, on the eastern side of the M5 motorway.

Previous archaeological works at North Newton, which lies to the south of the site, has also recorded a 3rd century Roman settlement with some evidence for occupation in the 2nd century AD.

The report added:

Roman (AD 43–AD 410) material was recovered during a previous evaluation on the northern border of the site. A ditch, pit and cobbled surface associated with 3rd Century AD Roman pottery have been identified to the immediate north east of the site.

North Petherton is recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) and appears to have had early medieval origins. There is no known evidence for extensive early medieval or medieval activity in the immediate vicinity of the evaluation site, indicating that it formed part of the hinterland to North Petherton in these periods.

Historic cartographic sources indicate that the evaluation site remained in agricultural use in the post-medieval and modern periods.

Two fragments of worked prehistoric flint were retrieved from possible ring ditch and the circular shape could suggest a prehistoric feature such as a barrow, the report states.