ARCHAELOGICAL investigations have started in Neston looking for evidence of an ancient settlement.

The results of the investigation will be used in connection with a planning application submitted for a major retail development in the present car park.

The dig, between Brook Street and Raby Road, will establish whether more extensive archaeological work would be needed, if planning permission was granted.

Fragments of memorial stones from the parish church suggest that there has been a settlement at Neston for at least 1,000 years and examination of early maps and other documentary evidence indicate that the western part of the car park, behind the High Street, lay within the original settlement area.

Investigation of sites elsewhere in the area suggest that, if archaeological remains are present, they will consist of pits, gullies, boundary ditches, and postholes cut into the natural sandstone, which is known to lies just beneath the modern ground surface.

Typically, finds might include pottery, animal bones, and other material discarded by Neston's previous inhabitants.

Jane Williamson, the borough council's head of property and support services, said: "We are delighted to have commissioned AOC Archaeology, a local firm based in Tattenhall, to undertake the evaluation of the site at Neston.

"The historical heritage of the town and indeed the Borough of Ellesmere Port and Neston are taken very seriously and any findings of importance will be communicated to the public.

"At this stage of the work, the investigations will be limited to a total of four separate trenches.

"The location of the trenches and their excavation have been arranged to minimise any inconvenience."