ARCHAEOLOGICAL work is set to start again in central Winchester.

Underground investigation will be carried out on the Central Winchester Regeneration site between The Broadway and Friarsgate, better known as the Silver Hill area and latterly Saxon Gate.

But anyone expecting a repeat of the late-1980s open-air dig for The Brooks will be disappointed.

Archaeologists will undertake borehole investigations, which means there will be no digging and opening up of the ground.

The city council has appointed ARCA Geoarchaeology, a specialist team at Winchester University, to drill boreholes to extract and examine sediment samples, and install dipwells to monitor water levels.

The data will be analysed to give insights into what is underground and so inform future proposals for the 4.5 hectare area.

There has been debate about how the archaeology should be treated. Some city councillors argued for a dig, similar to that at the Brooks in 1987-88, which became a tourist attraction. But others, including renowned archaeologist Prof Martin Biddle, said such work is unrealistic in the 21st century and would be prohibitively expensive.

The council says borehole techniques ensure minimal damage and leave the deposits preserved underground, in line with best practice and expert advice.

The first phase of the investigations will begin in August and is expected to last up to 18 months.

Cllr Kelsie Learney, the council’s cabinet member for housing and asset management, said: “In common with our residents we care deeply about our city’s heritage. We want to understand more about this special site so we can ensure a suitable approach to future redevelopment. I’m really pleased to be working with the University of Winchester on these archaeological investigations given their expertise and passion for the location.

“Now more than ever, the Central Winchester Regeneration scheme is set to play a vital part in our local economy, and this is another important step forward in this exciting project.”

Prof Elizabeth Stuart, deputy vice-chancellor of the university, said: “We are delighted that the university’s ARCA consultancy will work with the council on the archaeology of the CWR scheme.

“ARCA’s particular geoarchaeological expertise is ideally suited to understanding the archaeology beneath this historic city.”

Proposals for the wider Central Winchester Regeneration project are being finalised, working within the framework of the Supplementary Planning Document.

They are due to be published for more public engagement later this year.