CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a massive supermarket in Droitwich is facing further problems, with English Heritage indicating its bid to have the site declared an ancient monument.

The organisation is to recommend to the Secretary of State that the remains of salt production buildings should be classified as an ancient monument.

The proposed area includes Saltway and the adjoining car parks, Vines Park, and the bowling green.

It extends as far west as the railway line and St George's Square to the east.

The site will also include the proposed Waitrose supermarket, that could be built on the site of the Market Hall.

If the area is declared an ancient monument any developer wanting to build there must apply for ancient monument status in addition to seeking normal planning permission.

Jack Hegarty, head of planning for Wychavon District Council, told members of the authority's planning committee yesterday that English Heritage's idea was in the preliminary stages.

Councillor Roy Seabourne wanted to know if other important features in the town would also be included in the protected site.

"Will it include the merchant houses, the remains of which are on the High Street, which has an association with the salt industry?" he asked.

Councillor Anthony Hotham said declaring the area an ancient monument was overkill.

"This is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. This area clearly needs protection but we have suitable architectural conditions in operation," he said.

"This is not an historical monument. An historical monument is Windsor Castle, not merchant houses.

"It seems very sinister that this is raised while there is an interest in building a supermarket on the site.

Councillor Michael Barratt said: "I think this is completely over the top and I cannot see this need for protection."

Councillor Tim Bean said the term "ancient monument" could mean a number of things.

"My house isn't an ancient monument, but the ground it is on is classed as one," he said.

Councillors noted the report.