PLANS for a new Roman visitor attraction in York as part of a £150 million redevelopment of Rougier Street have been welcomed by civic leaders and many Press readers.

A conservation watchdog says York has long needed a visitor attraction dedicated to its Roman origins, a senior councillor says continuing commercial interest in the city is ‘welcome news’ and two polls of readers showed a significant majority backing the ‘Roman Quarter.’

Readers’ comments online yesterday included: 'Fantastic news, this will be a great asset bringing visitors and employment', but another claimed it was ‘pie in the sky.’

The Press revealed exclusively yesterday how York Archaeological Trust wants to stage a two-year dig on the current site of Society Bar and then build a new high-tech Roman museum, as part of a wider scheme by developer North Star to demolish Northern House and Rougier House and build a new aparthotel, apartments and offices.

Dr Duncan Marks, of York Civic Trust, said the city’s Jorvik Viking Centre had had a major cultural and economic impact in York since it opened in 1984, firmly establishing the city on an international footing for its heritage.

“The prospect of a similar venture for our Roman past is without doubt to be warmly welcomed,” he said.

”The city has long needed a visitor attraction dedicated to the city’s Roman origins, its association with Constantine the Great and the Ninth Legion, and rich archaeological material of the period.”

He said the wider scheme was an opportunity to regenerate Rougier Street’s public realm and streetscape; ‘to make it a more pedestrian-friendly space, rather than the vehicle-laden and heavily-polluted street that it has become.’

He gave cautious backing to the proposed aparthotel, ‘as long as the building is of a scale, size and character that is befitting and sensitive to a historic city like York.’

Cllr Andrew Waller, executive member for economy at City of York Council, said: “It is of course welcome news that we continue to receive positive commercial interest in the city.”

But he said it was important that, if planning permission was granted, the council worked with partners to ensure rail jobs currently based in Northern House were retained in the city.