Archaeologists are working to protect a 200-year-old cave which sits beneath a planned student tower block in Nottingham city centre.
In September last year, Fusion Nottingham Devco Limited was given the green light to build 552 student apartments on King Edward Court, between King Edward Street and Kent Street.
A second phase to build a further 89 residential apartments, complemented by office and retail space on the ground floor, will also be delivered.
While demolition is currently taking place, the construction of the tower block is conditional to the protection of a large cave which sits around 45 feet beneath the site.
The developer has now submitted new plans to Nottingham City Council, including drawings to show how the cave will be preserved, and these will need to be approved for the development to progress.
Little is known about the cave, and a full survey will be required, according to documents submitted by Pearce Planning Limited on behalf of the developer.
City archaeologist Scott Lomax said: “I’ve got archaeologists on site looking for the cave so that its extent and precise location can be ascertained.
“Then the developer can avoid any impact on the cave when they come to build.”
The site has an extensive and colourful history, with Nottingham’s Central Market having been hosted in the area for more than 40 years upon its opening in 1928.
Before this, it was home to St John’s Hospital, which went on to become the House of Correction in 1610 and Nottingham Borough Prison in later years.
Most recently it was occupied by office buildings, built in 1985, which have already been demolished as part of the new project.
It was during the development of Central Market in 1928 the cave was rediscovered, Mr Lomax says. It is understood it dates back to at least 1822.
“We know little about the cave other than its size and a brief description produced in 1928,” Mr Lomax added.
“It is likely to largely be 19th Century in date, but parts of it may be much older.
“The site has been occupied since the medieval period when it was the site of St John’s Hospital. It was later the House of Corrections, in Elizabeth I’s reign, and was later the site of Nottingham Prison.
“The cave was rediscovered in 1928 during groundwork in advance of the construction of the Central Market.
“It was found at a depth of 45ft below the level of King Edward Street.
“A number of years, ranging between 1822 and 1895, were found inscribed into the cave wall.
“A substantial wall, more than 3ft thick, blocked the entrance to the cave and was thought to date to when the prison was demolished in 1895.”
Nottingham City Council planners instructed the developer that, other than the demolition of the existing buildings, “no individual phase of development shall commence until details of a foundation design which enables the preservation of the known cave, and any other unknown caves which may be encountered through ground investigations, within the application site have been submitted to and approved.”
It was one of a number of conditions which the developer must meet before any construction work takes place.
According to the documents the developer “is keen to progress with the development at the earliest possible opportunity”.
The conditions must now be discharged by the city council’s planners, if it is decided they have been met.