HUNDREDS of people have hit out at plans to continue building the Rotherwas relief road after a 4,000-year-old monument was found in its path.

But despite protests its construction will continue and the archaeological discovery, which is thought to have no parallels in Europe, will be hidden underground.

English Heritage inspected the site on July 9 and a decision on scheduling - which gives nationally important sites legal protection - will be made in due course.

But it is recommending a temporary cover is used to protect it and is happy for the find, which has been termed the Rotherwas Ribbon, to be covered up permanently.

Charlotte Tamvakis, of English Heritage, said: "The remains are very fragile, and while English Heritage agrees with Herefordshire Council that controlled public access should be afforded, we will ensure the local authority covers the remains to protect them from bad weather. If we have more rain it could be damaged.

"In the long term, English Heritage considers that this is a significant find worthy of being fully recorded for future research and protected in-situ."

John Burnett, of Herefordshire Council, said the decision to build the road had not been changed after the meeting with English Heritage.

"It was a positive meeting from our point of view. They reiterated support for the actions we have taken. They have been involved from the word go and we are following their recommendations," he said.

However, there has been objections to the continutation of the scheme which would see a road built over the top of an discovery that dates back to the same period as Stonehenge.

Since the news was published in last week's Hereford Times, petitions have been started by students of Hereford Sixth Form College and on the Prime Minister's official website.

Councillor Marcelle Lloyd-Hayes said she has received protests from residents concerned about the future of the snake-shaped monument.

"The discovery of the Rotherwas Ribbon dwarfs the Rotherwas relief road and, whether or not the road meets with your approval, the build must be halted in order to assess the situation sensibly," she said. "There has been a lot of international interest and I have never known anything to grow so quickly."

Coun Lloyd-Hayes said there had been 12,000 hits on the internet search engine Google as people looked for information about the find and suggested that tourism could be developed in a similar fashion to Kilmartin, in Scotland.

"They have become very prosperous because of people going there," she said.

Councillor Gerald Dawe, whose Hollington ward includes the monument, said the proposal to continue road-building was "cultural vandalism of the highest order" equal to "burying Hereford's Stonehenge under concrete".

"With such a significant find we must immediately pause the building of this road to allow further research and a national discussion about what can be done," he said.

Ashley Elliott, head of product design at Hereford Sixth Form College, said it would be an "act of cultural criminality" to continue building the road.

"You don't preserve anything by laying tarmac over the top as the vibrations from heavy lorries will cause damage to any structures," he claimed.

Peter Cox, an archaeology teacher at the college, urged the council to investigate the financial rewards of keeping the site intact. "One only need look at the annual turnover made at Stonehenge as an example," he said.

A poll at has also seen overwhelming support for the monument with around 93% of people against the road continuing.

Due to the immense interest in the Ribbon, Herefordshire Council is giving residents more opportunities to view it. The council ran viewing sessions on July 7 and 10, with a further 400 people attending. More escorted visits have been arranged to run between 1pm and 4.30pm on July 16 to July 21. Anyone wanting to book a place should ring 01432 260000 between 11am and 5pm.