A BRONZE age monument looks certain to be buried after councillors backed road building plans.

A Herefordshire Council scrutiny committee has backed cabinet plans to press on with the Rotherwas access road, leaving the 4,000-year-old find, popularly known as the "ribbon", buried under a protective membrane.

But its decision followed suggestions of a cover-up and an impassioned plea from campaigners to preserve the edifice as a tourist attraction.

The environment scrutiny committee agreed on Monday that further delays to the £20 million access road project would be detrimental to the nearby industrial estate.

They decided that other measures, including re-routing and tunnelling the road, were too expensive, while a delay would be a waste of taxpayers' cash at £430,000 for six months.

Instead, they have decided to back the cabinet's plans of September 6, opting to carry on with the road while seeking funding from English Heritage.

That funding and continued archaeological work - priced at more than £420,000 to date - either side of the road would determine the full extent of the site and offer tourism possibilities.

Councillor Adrian Blackshaw told the committee the ribbon was "visually not impressive" and would struggle to attract large visitor numbers.

"It may be of interest to a minority of tourists with a keen interest in archaeology but the majority of tourists that come to the county would not be interested," he said.

"It's also got to be commercially viable - we'd need hundreds and thousands of people to support a visitor centre and we've got to have a look at the hard facts here."

But protester Bob Clay, of the Save the Rotherwas Ribbon campaign, said that council officers knew about the ribbon two months before it became public.

He produced an internal council email sent on May 11, retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act, proclaiming the Ribbon's significance.

Bobbie Heavens, who represents the county on the Tourism West Midlands Board, also told the committee that the ribbon's potential had been wasted.

"While I strongly support the road going ahead in no way could it diminish the impact of this ribbon," said Mrs Heavens.

"The possibilities are very strong for potential but they have been cut up with political bias on numerous occasions and that needs to be addressed very strongly."

Committee chairman councillor Bob Matthews admitted that some information did not flow freely and fell short of the standard normally expected, but dismissed claims of a cover-up.

The matter will now be returned to cabinet for a final vote.