MORE than 30 years ago an archaeological dig in the centre of Winchester captured the public imagination.

The excavation on the site of the Brooks Centre in 1987-89 drew thousands of people to see the work that peeled back the layers on medieval, Saxon and Roman history.

Initial plans for Silver Hill, also known as Central Winchester Regeneration (CWR), sparked controversy by only proposing limited archaeology, with four slit trench excavations on the bus station site.

Now the city council has changed its mind and is planning a dig on part of the Friarsgate Medical Centre site as well as more varied use on the rest of the area.

READ ALSO: Eminent archaeologist Prof Martin Biddle calls for full-scale dig at Silver Hill

The unused medical centre is proposed for demolition this year with the initial plan to create a temporary park, with seating and planting, to be open for several years before the site is redeveloped.

Yesterday's Cabinet regeneration committee heard that an archaeological dig would now be carried out at the junction of Friarsgate and the back entrance to the bus station.

Veryan Lyons, head of programme for CWR, said the-yet to be announced development partner agreed with the change. "All three shortlisted partners said 'it's great to have open space but the archaeology is something we need to know about.'"

Ms Lyons said the dig had the potential to involve archaeological students and could be extended.

"This is very different to what we were proposing. We know there is huge interest in archaeology. But first doing a shallow trench we will be looking at more recent history. The contractors are well versed in this slightly more community-based outreach dig work."

SEE MORE: Council chiefs to discuss archaeology in Silver Hill scheme

Ms Lyons spoke of "the slab" which lies under some of the site and may have much archaeological remains beneath. "We could punch through the slab and see what is under that."

Council critics have called for a major archaeological dig because of the city's rich history over 2,000 years. They have included Prof Martin Biddle, the director of the Winchester Research Unit.

The archaeological work on the site is due to start this year and potentially run into early 2025, the committee heard.

Elsewhere on the site the council is proposing a park but with other uses including improved access to the river, a coffee van and site for mobile exhibitions.

It is unclear how long the park will last as the area is among the first that will be redeveloped under the new Silver Hill scheme.

The Friarsgate building is due for demolition in the autumn before any bats return to roost. It would be illegal to disturb their roosting.

READ MORE HERE: Archaeological work set to cost nearly £500,000

Ms Lyons said the multi-use would also deter vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Cllr Chris Westwood suggested that any archaeological discoveries could be put on show in empty shops in the nearby Kings Walk.

Cllr Martin Tod, council leader, said the work would give momentum to the whole Silver Hill redevelopment: "We need to get the old medical centre building down. What is now proposed is a better, more interesting use of the site and gives a sense of forward movement which is very important."